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Research & Development

CARMEN imaging project aims to improve detection of cancerous cells

23 Dec 2020

European research institutes and firms working together to develop new, compact imaging system.

A new European research project called CARMEN has the objective of improving the detection of cancerous cells during surgery. The research institutes Laser Zentrum Hannover, Germany, and Multitel, Belgium , are working with companies from both countries, JenLab, Deltatec, and LaserSpec, to develop a compact and multimodal imaging system.

The partners say that such a source could allow the examination of tissue samples directly during surgery.

Laser-based microscopes usually use only one imaging method, such as confocal microscopy, multi-photon microscopy or Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS).

Combining different imaging techniques in a single device makes it possible to obtain faster, more, and more reliable information about tissues and possible diseases. However, the various excitation lasers needed would make a complete system very complex, bulky, and expensive.

One laser source for three microscopy methods

The partners in the CARMEN project want to develop a laser system that generates several excitation wavelengths and different pulse durations. This would allow them to combine CARS with multi-photon and super-resolution STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) microscopy in one compact device.

Such a complete system would make it possible to examine tissue samples directly after surgery or even during it. This would help to recognize tumor margins more accurately, for example.

Combining three methods allows superimposing several levels of information and thus obtaining a more precise picture of the cells. This would make it easier to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells.

In cooperation with the Belgian research institute Multitel, the LZH scientists are working on a fiber-based ultrashort pulse source for the new laser system. The source will synchronously pump two optical parametric oscillators from the Belgian company LaserSpec.

Tunable ultrashort pulses

The complete laser system will have multiple beam outputs with tunable wavelengths and be able to generate pulses simultaneously in both the femtosecond and picosecond range. This would be the basis for combining the three imaging methods in a multimodal system, to be designed by JenLab.

Deltatec is tasked to develop a rapid electronic system to control the multimodal system. This will also link the laser system with the microscope’s scanner technology.

Due to glass fiber’s favorable thermal properties, air-cooling will be sufficient for this novel fiber laser-pumped ultra-short pulse laser, say the team. This property should make the imaging system cheaper, more energy-efficient and smaller than comparable microscopes with titanium-sapphire lasers, for example.

They add that the range of applications could also be expanded enormously: “the system could track drugs and nanoparticles in tissues and cells, or could be used for microscopic testing of the effectiveness of cosmetic products,” says the CARMEN project launch statement.

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