Exciting fluorophores

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DOUGLAS FARMER, SENIOR EDITORIn the early iterations of microfluidic technology, researchers and health care providers relied on the techniques to identify a handful of biomarkers by manipulating bodily fluids through microchannels. However, optofluidics — a subset of the technology in which increasingly sophisticated components such as lasers and LEDs, detectors, and lenses are utilized — can provide the necessary capability to capture as much detail as possible not only when diagnosing disease but also when tracking the success of pharmaceutical or cell-based therapies.

As the techniques have matured, developers have used lasers to carve complex chambers into chips or other instruments, while various lighting mechanisms capture details such as blood oxygenation or antibody production present in fluid that passes into these tiny compartments. And the push from the industry and the marketplace is to achieve the portability of this technology for use in many different settings.

As I relate in my cover story on microfluidics in this edition of BioPhotonics, designers are using photonic systems driven by lasers and LEDs to excite fluorophores in various fluids. They are creating intricate microchannels in disposable chips. They have even created a device that draws interstitial fluid via microneedles that stay attached to the skin. And they are adapting welding processes that make the polymeric material present in microfluidic chips stable and reliable. Learn what the experts believe the future holds for this technology here.

Elsewhere in this issue, Alexandre Fong and George Shu write about how hyperspectral imaging can be used to identify features both spectrally and spatially from blood analysis that could — with the aid of advanced algorithms for grouping — lead to an effective diagnosis of various conditions. This holds promise for people suffering from and awaiting treatment for cancerous tumors, peripheral vascular disease, and sepsis. Read about what this technology has already accomplished here.

Parsin Haji Reza discusses the use of photoacoustic remote sensing in histology for the precise identification of cancer margins at the cellular level. Although noncontact, high-resolution images can mimic H&E staining, photoacoustic technology can be employed in the precise mapping of the retinal pigment epithelium, improving ophthalmological diagnoses. Gather more details on here.

And Isabel Goodhand tells readers about how the use of solid-state LEDs and precise optical filters has expanded the role of fluorescence microscopy in live-cell imaging. This enables not only the capture of a snapshot, but the evolution of a dynamic process at the cellular or even molecular level, while avoiding photodamage. Learn more about the possibilities that LEDs can offer for research and development here.

Finally, in this edition’s “Biopinion,” Elizabeth Hillman and Carol Mason encourage congressional leaders to pass the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. The authors assert that the application of strategic funding would help to not only make up for time lost in scientific research due to the pandemic, but a fair amount of the research efforts that have followed have gone into creating advanced optical technology. Such funding would also relieve the burdens on institutions that have had to pay the bills while lab space has been largely off-limits. Read the authors’ message here.

Enjoy the issue!

Published: March 2022

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