WASHINGTON, Aug. 1Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new imaging system that enables high-speed, three-dimensional (3-D) imaging of microscopic pre-cancerous changes in the esophagus or colon. The new system, described in the Optical Society's (OSA) open access journal Biomedical Optics Express, is based on an emerging technology called optical coherence tomography (OCT), which offers a way to see below the surface with 3-D, microscopic detail in ways that traditional screening methods can't.
Endoscopy is the method of choice for cancer screening of the colon or esophagus. In the procedure, a tiny camera attached to a long thin tube is snaked into the colon or down the throat, giving doctors a relatively non-invasive way to look for abnormalities. But standard endoscopy can only examine the surface of tissues, and thus may miss important changes occurring inside tissue that indicate cancer development.
OCT, which can examine tissue below the surface, is analogous to medical ultrasound imaging except that it uses light instead of sound waves to visualize structures in the body in real time, and with far higher resolution; OCT can visualize structures just a few millionths of a meter in size. Over the past two decades, OCT has become commonplace in ophthalmology, where it is being used to generate images of the retina and to help diagnose and monitor diseases like glaucoma, and has emerging applications in cardiology, where it's used to examine unstable plaques in blood vessels that can trigger heart attacks.
The new endoscopic OCT imaging system reported by OCT pioneer James G. Fujimoto of MIT and his colleagues, works at record speeds, capturing data at a rate of 980 frames (equivalent to 480,000 axial scans) per secondnearly 10 times faster than previous deviceswhile imaging microscopic features less than 8 millionths of a meter in size.
At such high speeds and super-fine re
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Optical Society of America