Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada have designed a laser microscope potentially capable of diagnosing and treating diseases, such as skin cancer, without needing to cut the skin.
The microscope allows medical professionals to accurately determine the location of an abnormality, diagnose it and treat it.
The technology consists of a multiphoton excitation microscope that allows imaging of living tissue up to about one millimetre in depth using an ultrafast infrared laser beam. The microscope first scans tissues to identify suspicious or abnormal cell structure, the laser then treats the identified area by intensifying the heat it generates and applying to the precise area.
“Our technology allows us to scan tissue quickly, and when we see a suspicious or abnormal cell structure, we can perform ultra-precise surgery and selectively treat the unwanted or diseased structure within the tissue — without cutting into the skin,” said Yimei Huang, co-lead author of the study and a former postdoctoral fellow at the department of dermatology and skin science at UBC and BC Cancer.
Huang co-led the study with UBC PhD Student, Zhenguo Wu and teams across the university’s mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and ophthalmology departments are co-operating to develop several versions of the technology. Together, they hope to also develop a miniature version of the microscope for microscopic examinations and treatments during endoscopy.
University of British Columbia dermatology, pathology and physics professor Haishan Zeng added: “We wanted to be able to identify what was happening under the skin from many different angles and to have the capability of imaging different body sites.
“Once we achieved that, we wondered whether we could transform this diagnostic device into a treatment device by simply turning up the power of the laser.
“We are not only the first to achieve fast video-rate imaging that enables clinical applications, but also the first to develop this technology for therapeutic uses.”