The doctor’s office has long served as the front line in the fight against disease and age-related ailments. Here, the undiagnosed threat is as dangerous as the undetected enemy. And in a scenario that would make most military generals queasy, the medical profession’s scouts — diagnostic technicians — commonly operate not in advance of the front, not at it, but behind it in a clinical laboratory. That is usually the most practical place to maintain bulky diagnostic equipment. However, as two articles in this month’s BioPhotonics illustrate, the optical cavalry is coming to the point-of-care (POC) level. The cover story, “Using Photonic Components to Design and Build Life Science and Analytical Instruments” (read article), by Richard Simons at Excelitas Technologies Corp., illustrates how flow cytometers, which clinical laboratories currently use to diagnose and monitor diseases such as HIV/AIDs and blood cancers, can move to the front lines as POC devices. In “Advances in Laser Diodes Can Bring Portability to Point-of-Care Photoacoustic Systems” (read article), Celine Canal and Andreas Kohl at Quantel similarly highlight the needs for photoacoustic systems at the POC level, the challenges with packaging such technology into portable devices, and how laser diodes can help manufacturers overcome those obstacles. The ability to use portable photoacoustic systems to obtain structural and functional intelligence on blood vessels and tissues — and monitor a disease at its early stages — could give clinicians an edge in their fight against chronic diseases. Also be sure to read “Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Made Easy” by Gerhard Holst at PCO AG, (read article). Holst will also give a free webinar on photonics.com on FLIM in the frequency domain on April 14. Whether they are large or small, portable or fixed, biophotonic devices can have a tremendous impact on the medical industry. Their reach is far. The drive to develop POC devices will not alter that reach but will certainly change where photonics can touch people’s lives.