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SPIE Photonics Europe: plenaries focus on biomedical breakthroughs

06 Apr 2022

Talks on enhancing cancer images, and diagnoses made by using blood cells as lenses, draw a crowd in Strasbourg.

Tuesday’s afternoon’s “Hot Topics II” pair of plenary presentations at SPIE Photonics Europe focused on two exciting fields of biomedical photonics – enhancing cancer cell images, and the use of blood cells as lenses for diagnostic purposes. These followed the welcome and opening remarks to the sessions by 2022 Symposium Chair Prof. Francis Berghmans, of Vrije University Brussel (Belgium).

“Enhancing optical contrast of images for cancer detection and therapy guidance” was the opener, presented by Prof. Brian W. Pogue, of the University of Wisconsin and Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth (US).

Prof. Pogue said, “Imaging systems naturally have a defined sensitivity and dynamic range, but the nature of imaging highly heterogenous diseases such as cancer means that the disease itself can partly define the image contrast and value of the image itself.

“In this talk, examples of endogenous structural imaging of tumor-associated collagen structures are used to illustrate the value of matching the spatial resolution to the features to be detected.”

He noted that in the area of exogenous contrast agents, this is also an area where the value of the added contrast may not be realized unless the imaging system is matched to the task, in terms of dynamic range and fidelity for resolving relevant cancer structures.

Commercial activity ‘growing’

Prof. Pogue noted, “Commercial translation in these areas is now growing and scientific guidance can help to define the most promising areas for the future. Additionally, new contrast mechanisms based upon fundamental physical interactions, such as Cherenkov-excited molecular sensing are noteworthy.”

Prof. Pogue's research is centered on developing innovative optical tools to advance radiation therapy and surgical guidance, photodynamic therapy, molecular imaging, and theranostics. In addition to publishing over 450 peer-reviewed journal articles, he has received over $38 million in grant funding from the US National Institutes of Health.

He is also president and co-founder of DoseOptics LLC, which is making the world’s first camera system to image radiation dose in humans.

Blood cells as lenses for diagnostic purposes

The second presentation of the afternoon session was entitled “Cell by lens: the next visionary challenges in biophotonics”, given by Dr. Pietro Ferraro, of the Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems (ISASI-CNR, Italy).

The context of this presentation is that a new field is rapidly emerging in bio-photonics whereby living cells can act as real-world optical or photonic components. Live cells have well-defined optical characteristics that can be accurately characterized by interferometric instruments.

In his talk, Dr. Ferraro explained how investigating and understanding the interactions between light and biological matter “can unlock the full potential of this disruptive concept.”

He stated, “It can be exploited in many circumstances as valuable tools in various fields of science and technology. Indeed, it is extraordinary as well as intriguing to discover that the optical behavior of living cells allows them to be used as imaging microlenses, photonic microresonators, or optical waveguides.

“Furthermore, it has been shown that biological cells can act as advanced optical tweezers or to enhance fluorescence microscopy.” His talk gave an overview of these fascinating biolenses applications.

Since 2005, Dr. Ferraro has been head of the research line and group on behalf of CNR in optical diagnostics, Interferometric and Microscopy, and he holds the position of the director of ISASI-CNR in Napoli. He is also the Vice-President elect of International Commission for Optics (ICO).

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