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Closing a Gap

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When it comes to health care, the differences are stark between the resources available in the developed world and those available in the less-wealthy regions of the globe. According to the World Bank, for example, in 2014 Switzerland spent the equivalent of $9,674 per capita on health care (nearly $300 more than in the U.S.), China $420, Zimbabwe $58 and Madagascar just $14.

Among other things, the lack of money in low-resource regions means that thousands upon thousands of people die simply because they don’t have access to medical tests that could make life-saving diagnoses. In “Point-of-Care Photonics Deliver Vital Care in Developing Regions,” (read article), we look at some of the initiatives by photonics researchers and businesses to address this problem through the creation of portable optical imaging devices.

The task isn’t easy. Point-of-care diagnostic systems for low-resource settings have to be inexpensive, reliable, tough and easy-to-use by front-line health workers — all while delivering high-quality, real-time diagnostic imaging. Many of the systems rely on common consumer electronics. The portable colposcope put out by Israel’s MobileODT uses a cellphone camera, which is attached to an advanced lens. The Autoscope developed for detection of malaria by Seattle-based research and development group Global Good marries microscopy with a laptop computer. But whatever the combination of technological and photonic advances these devices represent, the goal is the same: Create viable alternatives to the trained pathologists who are in painfully short supply in the poorer regions of the world.

Elsewhere in this issue: • “Probing Cancer by Exploiting Spontaneous and Stimulated Raman Scattering” examines a hybrid system that can uncover the hidden signatures in cancer cells or tissues. The article by Chien-Sheng Liao of the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University and Ji-Xin Cheng of Purdue and the Photonics Center at Boston University (read article).

• Contributing editor Marie Freebody surveys some of the recent advances in surgical microscopes that have led to heightened resolution, integration of patient data and more exact surgical targeting. “Advances in Surgical Microscopes Pave the Way to Improved Outcomes” (read article).

• Coherent Inc.’s Darryl McCoy and Marco Arrigoni write about advances in optogenetics using femtosecond lasers that hold promise for neuroscientific research. “In Optogenetics, Femtosecond Lasers Blaze New Paths” (read article).

• This month’s Biopinion column, on the facing page, addresses obstacles of market realization facing many innovations. “Multiple factors shape market for innovations” is written by Dr. Iñaki Gutiérrez-Ibarluzea of EuroScan and Osteba, Basque Office for Health Technology Assessment, Ministry for Health, the Basque Government.

Enjoy the issue.

Apr 2017
EditorialMarcia Stamell

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