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Montana State grad's work helps diagnose skin cancer without a biopsy
Date:3/30/2009

er the patient's cells are cancerous.

The project, which Arrasmith began working on when he was an undergraduate at MSU, is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIBIB focuses on researching new biomedical imaging devices and techniques to improve the detection, treatment and prevention of disease.

The $1.79 million grant is administered by Vanderbilt. MSU will receive $500,000 from the grant over all five years. That money covered, among other things, the cost of the microscope itself and Arrasmith's graduate tuition.

David Dickensheets, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at MSU and adviser to Arrasmith's work, said other labs have built microscopes that work on the same principles, but they have been desktop instruments that still required skin samples to be taken from patients.

Shrinking the microscope takes advantage of MSU's expertise in a field called micro-electrical-mechanical systems, or MEMS.

The handheld microscope contains a tiny mirror made of silicon that scans the laser beam across the skin, Dickensheets said. This allows the microscope to form an image and lets it look at cells beneath the patient's outer skin layer.

Merging MSU's expertise in microscopy and MEMS with Vanderbilt's spectroscopy research will produce a device that could one day find its way into dermatology clinics around the world, Dickensheets said.

"We think that microscopic imaging of cell structure combined with the chemical specificity provided by spectroscopy is the real key to making it a useful tool," Dickensheets said.

For Arrasmith, who has worked on the microscope since 2006, the approaching end of his time at MSU is both satisfying and bittersweet.

It's satisfying, he said, because he's been able to build a prototype microscope that's now being tested at Van
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Contact: Michael Becker
becker@montana.edu
406-994-5140
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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