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Tag Archive: medical imaging

  1. Fiber Optic Internal Body Imaging Goes 3D

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    Researchers at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) discovered an exciting new method that could make it possible to use 3D microscopy to view hard-to-reach areas of the human body. This method uses fiber optic bundles to miniaturize a type of 3D imaging called “light field imaging.”  Taken to extreme new levels, this imaging could make in-body use possible.

     

    This method could find widespread use in diagnostic procedures called optical biopsies. In these biopsies, suspicious body tissue is investigated using medical endoscopic procedures.

     

    Until now, light field imaging could be performed only with bulky hardware such as camera arrays or modified consumer cameras. Instead of trying to shrink existing equipment, the researchers realized that fiber optic bundles already used routinely in microendoscopy were actually suitable light field imaging devices.

     

    Fiber optic bundles are groups of tens of thousands of microscopic optical fibers. Each fiber in the bundle acts like a pixel in a camera. The result produced is a 2D image that is transmitted through the fiber bundle.

     

    Along with recording a 2D picture, light field imaging systems also measure the incoming angles of all light rays in the picture. With this information, doctors can map the picture in stereo 3D in the same way that humans perceive depth. According to the researchers, the primary challenge will be how to record this angular light ray dimension that is often hard to capture.

     

    According to Dr. Antony Orth, project lead and Research Fellow at the RMIT University node of the CNBP, “The key observation we made is that light ray orientation information is actually transmitted by the fiber optic bundles to the microendoscope. You just need to know what to look for and how to decode it.”

     

    Dr. Orth believes that, given the right mathematical framework, researchers can decode the patterns, transform them into a light field, and do incredible things such as refocusing, depth mapping and visualizing the image in stereo 3D. He believes that this light field technology could potentially bring an entirely new depth dimension into optical biopsies. This capability would let doctors examine suspect tissue without removing a sample from the patient.

     

    The research group is meeting with physicians to discuss how to test this technique in medical clinics and to also identify the medical procedures most likely to benefit from 3D visualization in the microscale.

     

     

  2. Smaller Endoscopes from New, Air-Filled Optical Fiber Bundles?

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    A new, air-filled optical fiber bundle could dramatically improve medical endoscopes. This technology could also help create endoscopes that produce images using infrared wavelengths. If so, this breakthrough would allow diagnostic procedures that aren’t currently possible.

     

    In the Optical Society (OSA) journal Optics Letters, University of Bath (U.K.) researchers showed that these new fiber optic bundles (called air-clad imaging fibers) deliver resolution equal to the best commercial imaging fibers. And the bundles do this at twice the wavelength range of these fibers. Because of this, these air-clad imaging fibers could help create new, smaller endoscopes with even better resolutions.

     

    HOW ENDOSCOPES WORK

    Used in minor surgery and imaging, endoscopes use bundles of optical fibers to obtain images from inside the body. Light that falls on one end of the fiber bundle travels through each fiber to the far end. This process sends a picture as thousands of spots, much like pixels in a digital picture.

     

    TESTING THE BUNDLES

    Instead of using cores and claddings of two types of glass, the new bundles use an array of glass cores covered by hollow glass capillaries filled with air. These air-filled capillaries act as the fiber cladding.

     

    To test the imaging fibers, the research team created an air-clad fiber bundle. This bundle matched the resolution of a leading commercial fiber (with the same spacing between cores). The team then stacked multiple, smaller honeycomb structures to place more than 11,000 cores into the fiber.

     

    The researchers used the air-clad fiber bundle and the commercial fiber to image a standard test target image. And the result? The air-clad fiber performed well beyond the wavelength range that a visible camera could detect. And when the researchers switched to an infrared camera, the fiber created a clear image at twice the wavelength that the commercial fiber reached.

     

    REAL-WORLD USE OF FIBER BUNDLES

    Along with medical diagnosis and care, the new optical fiber bundles could be used for industrial applications. These uses include monitoring the contents of hazardous machines and viewing the inside of oil and mineral drills. These types of fibers are becoming more and more popular for a variety of purposes.

     

    OFS Laboratories, one of the world’s leading optical fiber research labs, and the research arm of OFS, has performed major work in this area. The development of Microstructure Optical Fibers (MOFs) is one result of this work. The MOFs created by OFS Labs are a new class of optical fibers that are substantially different from conventional optical fibers.