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Latest Issue
May/Jun 2021

Detecting early-stage Lyme

DOUGLAS FARMER, SENIOR EDITORLyme disease continues to infect a large swath of the population in North America. The reliance on the standard two-tiered serodiagnostic test to identify its presence has proved problematic because the bacteria that cause the disease — Borrelia burgdorferi — can be difficult to trace in the early stages. Some in the biomedical community are pinning their hopes for reliable testing on the photonics technologies found in chip-based assays and used to measure effects such as fluorescence and absorption.

The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group has placed this pursuit of reliable testing in a national context with its recent report to the U.S. Congress. The group estimates that tick-borne diseases in general — and Lyme in particular — are vastly underestimated in national statistics, and that incidences are potentially 8 to 12× higher than officially diagnosed. The need for reliable point-of-care diagnostic testing will only grow as the true infection rate comes into focus.

As I discuss in my cover story in this edition of BioPhotonics, researchers at institutions across the country are busy looking for light-based effects that can be produced when proteins in Lyme bacteria are present. The scientists are using gold nanoparticles to measure a colorimetric response — plasmonic fluorescence — and also the corresponding absorption. Others are utilizing microfluidics to identify the bacteria in the early stages of the disease. While commercialization of these concepts may be a few years away, studies involving a broad segment of the population are proceeding. Learn more here.

Another new technology for detecting and diagnosing conditions in the body is the subject of a feature by Jianglai Wu, Na Ji, and Kevin Tsia. These researchers developed a technique called free-space angular-chirp-enhanced delay (FACED), which generates a series of receding virtual images that can capture high-speed cellular processes via a module that can be attached to any standard microscope. Read more about this development here.

Elsewhere in this edition, Adam Glaser and Melissa Haahr write about a team of researchers that is using a form of light sheet microscopy to overcome the historical limitations of pathological analysis. The group has created open-top light-sheet microscopes, which place optical components below the specimen, allowing for the illumination of samples of varying sizes. Explore their efforts here.

Meanwhile, Sulayman Oladepo expounds on the invention of a smart probe that is based on a string of nucleic acids. The probe absorbs fluorescent dyes, revealing a variety of biomarkers, including those intrinsic to cancer. The probe is used to analyze micro-RNA that is linked to a cancer biomarker. Follow Oladepo’s research journey, which begins here.

And in “Biopinion,” the Forever Healthy Foundation discusses the benefits of low-level light therapy, a form of photobiomodulation. The foundation’s analysis verifies that light in the red and infrared regions can stimulate the skin and create a more youthful appearance. Read more about this topic here.

Enjoy the issue!

Mike Wheeler
As editor-in-chief, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonics Media's editorial operations — spanning print, web, and podcasts. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Dan McCarthy
Senior editor Dan McCarthy manages editorial content and production for Photonics Spectra. An award-winning writer and editor, he has communicated the progress and practical value of advanced technologies for over two decades.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Sarah Weiler
As Webinar & Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Weiler organizes and produces all Photonics Media webinars and manages social media content. With a background in writing and editing, she also contributes to the print publications.
Valerie Coffey
Science writer Valerie C. Coffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in astronomy. She has covered optics, photonics, physics, and astronomy for a variety of industry and academic publications since 2000.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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