Device to see under the skin for cancer signs

February 20th, 2011 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) A researcher has developed optical technology that provides unprecedented images under the skin’s surface.

The technology will detect and examine skin lesions (red rashes) to determine whether they are benign or cancerous without having to cut the suspected portion out of the skin and analyze it in a lab.

Instead, the tip of a roughly foot-long cylindrical probe is placed in contact with the tissue, and within seconds a clear, high-resolution, 3D image of what lies below the surface emerges.

“My hope is that, in the future, this technology could remove significant inconvenience and expense from the process of skin lesion diagnosis,” says optics professor Jannick Rolland, from University of Rochester in the US, who developed the device.

“When a patient walks into a clinic with a suspicious mole, for instance, they wouldn’t have to have it necessarily surgically cut out of their skin or be forced to have a costly and time-consuming MRI done,” according to a Rochester University statement.

The device accomplishes this using a unique liquid lens setup developed by Rolland and her team for a process known as Optical Coherence Microscopy.

In a liquid lens, a droplet of water takes the place of the glass in a standard lens. As the electrical field around the water droplet changes, the droplet changes its shape and, therefore, changes the focus of the lens.

This allows the device to take thousands of pictures focused at different depths below the skin’s surface. Combining these images creates a fully in-focus image of all of the tissue up to one mm deep in human skin, which includes important skin tissue structures.

Rolland presented her findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C.

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