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Barcode Scanner Microscope Analyzes Complex Medical Problems

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CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 23, 2017 — An advanced microscope that uses barcode laser scanner technology can film moving blood cells and neurons in living animals.

Li and Dr. Steve Lee with the advanced microscope they built that uses a barcode scanner laser to film moving blood cells.
Yongxiao Li and Steve Lee with the advanced microscope they built that uses a barcode scanner laser to film moving blood cells. Courtesy of ANU/Jack Fox.

Engineers at The Australian National University (ANU) built the microscope using technology similar to retail barcode scanners and office laser printers.

Lead researcher Steve Lee, a biomedical optics engineer, said the invention was much more powerful than similar microscopes available commercially.

“Scientists can use our new microscope to analyze complex medical problems ranging from blood disorders and cancer to neurological disorders,” said Lee. “The microscope can speed up or slow down to capture the slow-moving cells in a blood stream or live neurons firing rapidly in the brain, making it much more flexible than other microscopes on the market.”

In barcode scanners, a laser beam bounces off a spinning polygon mirror, allowing it to scan across a sample very quickly. A barcode scanner registers a sequence of patterns to identify a product. A polygon mirror usually has around 10 mirror facets. The ANU researchers used a more powerful laser beam as the light source and up to 36 mirror facets to scan the laser beam across the biological sample in a few thousandths of a second.

“We achieve the same imaging resolution of conventional scanning microscopes on the market but at double the speed,” said Lee. “The innovation here is that we modernized the polygon mirror microscopy system with advanced electronics and software controls to enable real-time imaging applications, with up to 800 frames per second.”

ANU worked with experts from the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), the Imaging and Cytometry Facility at JCSMR, the University of New South Wales and Harvard to design the microscope.

Their research findings have been published in the Journal of Biophotonics (doi: 10.1002/jbio.201600289).
Feb 2017
The Australian National UniversityANUJohn Curtin School of Medical Research(JCSMR)the Imaging and Cytometry Facility at JCSMRUniversity of New South WalesHarvardResearch & TechnologyeducationBiophotonicslasersimagingMicroscopy

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