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BioPhotonics is the global resource for research, business and product news and information for the biophotonics community and the industry's only stand-alone print and digital magazine. Stay current with a FREE subscription, and expand your knowledge of light and the life sciences through our extensive, industry-specific archives.

Latest Issue
Jan/Feb 2022

Building a better PCR test

The spread of infections caused by variants of the coronavirus issues a stark reminder to the medical and scientific communities, and to the rest of us who rely on these communities, that the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Late in 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled variant B.1.1.529, commonly called omicron, as a variant of concern. Travel restrictions and other measures were imposed, along with ramped-up vaccination efforts, in an attempt to contain its spread.

The WHO has also urged enhanced surveillance and sequencing efforts to monitor the spread of the virus, including laboratory-based assessments that capture and assess telltale markers of COVID-19 and its various mutations. One of the common diagnostic mechanisms for identifying the disease is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which amplifies the presence of certain biomarkers for optical identification and detection of the illness. For rapid testing, quantitative PCR (qPCR) test components include a reaction module, an optical system, and software to extrapolate the data.

Jason Palidwar writes in our cover story in this issue of BioPhotonics that the optical system contains fluorescent elements, beam steering, and wavelength-selective elements — including optical filters — and sensors or detectors. The optical filter sets (excitation, dichroic beamsplitter, or emission) for each channel work together to block unwanted illumination and allow only certain wavelengths to pass through. Companies that produce qPCR technology must strike a balance between the components required to exact the information needed and commercial feasibility. Learn more here.

Elsewhere, Mihaela Balu relates that — to create a compact, yet powerful system to image skin disease — a research project was undertaken to enhance existing methods of multiphoton microscopy. The development brings a compact femtosecond fiber laser directly into a microscopic imaging head, along with other associated optical mechanisms for laser scanning and beam expansion, to provide the resolution needed to identify cellular dynamics in the skin. Read about the research on here.

In another research collaboration, Els Parton and Elena Beletkaia reveal the use of microscopy along with a miniaturized hyperspectral imaging camera — complete with a line-scan sensor — to track structural changes in the eyes of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The work opens the door to noninvasively detecting the disease in its early stages, before debilitating symptoms have ensued. See what’s in store here.

Also in this edition, Krzysztof Bec and Christian Huck explain that, thanks in part to the miniaturization of sensors, NIR spectroscopy — with its unique ability to provide for multivariate analysis while evaluating the molecular composition in a sample over a wide area — has allowed for many applications of the technology. These include agricultural and environmental monitoring. Find out what some of the latest research has enabled here.

Finally, in “Biopinion,” Ulysses Balis addresses standardization. He writes that — with the explosion of data collection — establishing universal standards for deep learning becomes essential in the fields of data science and clinical informatics. Balis argues that both coordinated and standardized data representation and an appropriate programming interface are needed. Otherwise, a treasure trove of information will exist whose meaning will not be widely understood or put to good use. Learn about his hopes for a standardized future in the data 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.
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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