Diagnosis is in the details

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Doug FarmerThe emphasis on accurately measuring everything from cancerous growths in our own organs to chemical components in the world around us is a driving force behind modern research. And scientists are doing this work alongside doctors and engineers to bring the full force of photonics into the marketplace and into the lives of people around the world. This collaboration occurs in both industrial and academic settings. As readers of this edition of BioPhotonics will see, the urgency to find the conditions that may plague us, whether personal or environmental, is encouraging innovation — and providing answers at light speed.

From microscopic imaging in the laboratory to the spectroscopic analysis of broad swaths of the environment, new methods are taking the mystery out of a variety of conditions — literally, molecule by molecule.

In the treatment of cancer, researchers at the University of Iowa are developing a new biosensor that enhances liquid biopsies by accurately measuring the biomarkers present in the patient. This enables the personalization of care for each individual, dramatically improving the chances of a successful outcome. Professor Fatima Toor writes about this development in “Biopinion”. And on the West Coast, colleagues at the UC Davis Medical Center are bringing more precision to the diagnosis of thyroid cancer thanks to Raman scattering, which monitors the degree to which photons interact with the molecular bonds of various elements and sets a “fingerprint” of different types of cells. Marcos A. Soares de Oliveira and James W. Chan relate the results of their work here.

Similarly, a variety of companies are experimenting with photoacoustic imaging, which measures blood flow, volume, and oxygen saturation, providing data for interpreting the size and danger presented by a tumor. Advancements in detectors and software are allowing those looking to not only capture the contrast deep within tissue but also cut off a tumor from its energy source, as contributing editor Hank Hogan writes. And as Darryl McCoy and Marco Arrigoni write, the push for deeper imaging in vivo in the laboratory has led to the development of a laser source providing the wavefront correction needed for high-resolution two-photon images deep in the mouse brain.

As world leaders grapple with environmental changes around us, optical technology is bringing resolution to the big picture. Scientists are putting spectroscopy to good use, examining variations in absorption of light to quantify various impurities in water bodies. Many lakes, rivers, streams, and lagoons around the world, writes Brian Curtiss of ASD Inc., are overcome by eutrophication, or rich nutrients — in the form of algae — caused by runoff into the water bodies. The combination of imaging and data mining helped create a valuable model in the ongoing study of the Curonian Lagoon, the largest body of water of its kind in Europe, Curtiss relates in this article.

Enjoy the issue!

Published: January 2020

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