Mini-Microscope Could Identify Cancer Cells in Real Time
Some of the most stressful times in a person's life begin with the doctor’s words, “We’re waiting for the results to come back from the lab.” But that wait may soon become a thing of the past.
That’s because researchers at the University of Washington are developing what could be a groundbreaking invention that has the potential to rid us of this torturous waiting game. The device, not much bigger than a pen, will allow surgeons to observe their patient on a cellular level -- there and then.
The mini-microscope is being developed in collaboration with Stanford University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Barrow Neurological Institute. The ongoing work was recently published in Biomedical Optics Express.
Lead author Jonathan Liu explains the obvious benefits to the surgeon: "Being able to zoom and see at the cellular level during the surgery would really help them to accurately differentiate between tumor and normal tissues and improve patient outcomes."
Dental patients stand to benefit as well. Dentists routinely come across a suspicious or unexpected lesion in a patient's mouth. In these situations, it’s important to err on the side of caution, excise the tissue and send it for analysis. These patients are subjected to procedures that, more often than not, turn out to be unnecessary; this also puts additional pressure on pathology labs.
A miniature microscope could remove the need for many superfluous procedures -- in dermatological clinics, for instance, it could be used to quickly define which moles require further investigation.
The microscope will be trialed first as a cancer-screening tool; the team hopes that within 2 to 4 years it will be released to other clinical settings.