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At the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Professor Stephen Boppart has been working on a new, noninvasive, portable technology that uses a cell’s ability to autofluoresce in order to create detailed images of diseased and healthy tissues—essentially allowing for an “optical” biopsy or cancer diagnosis while overcoming the many drawbacks of traditional methods.

He details the following:

  • In what ways this technology differs from traditional approaches to diagnosis and what types of information about breast cancer anatomy and cellular activity are lost in standard procedures of histology but attainable using this new technology
  • How a tumor excised from breast tissue can be imaged in real-time while in the operating room, and what advantages this confers for patients
  • How this imaging can identify extracellular vesicles that have been produced by cancerous as opposed to normal tissue

This technology can be brought directly into the operating room to deliver real-time diagnosis and evaluation of a tumor’s aggressiveness. It also has a number of applications in research and may allow for questions about the function of biological systems and the development of cancer to finally be answered.

Dr. Boppart dives into a detailed discussion of the science behind this technology, and exactly how the laser they’ve created interacts with tissues in a way that causes them to emit their own wavelengths, which are then collected and built up to create 3D images of tissues. He also discusses how this technology may reveal new information about the tumor microbiome—information that goes beyond structure to metabolic function and level of cellular activity.

To learn more, visit https://biophotonics.illinois.edu/.

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