University of Florida Researcher Huikai Xie is working on an endoscopic imaging technique using a tiny infrared scanning technology that, when placed near the surface of a tissue, moves rapidly back and forth to not only provide high resolution images of epithelial tissue, but also peer immediately underneath it.
Xie and his team have already published forty papers on the research and recently founded WiOptix, Inc. to try and commercialize the technology. His vision is not only to augment and/or supplement a traditional endoscope, but to merge the technology with cutting tools for surgical use, so that “when surgeons begin cutting, they know exactly what’s in front of them.”
From the University of Florida press release:
Xie’s endoscopes replace the cameras with infrared scanners smaller than pencil erasers. The heart of his scanner is a microelectromechanical system, or MEMS, device: A tiny motorized MEMS mirror that pivots back and forth to reflect a highly focused infrared beam.
By itself, the beam only strikes a period-sized dot of tissue. But the MEMS mirror allows it to move methodically back and forth, scanning a fingernail-sized piece of tissue row by row, like a lawnmower moving across a yard. The resulting image is high resolution: Xie said his scanners have achieved resolution of 10 microns, or 10 millionths of a meter, in laboratory tests. That’s more than 10 times higher resolution than the only other non-camera-based endoscopes on the market, which use ultrasound technology, he said. The high-resolution image also includes depth information, so the risky biopsy can be more specific to avoid randomness, or even completely avoided.
Computers process the return signal from the endoscopes, transforming it into a three-dimensional image of the surface tissue and the tissue beneath. One scanner even produces a 360-degree-image of all the tissue surrounding the endoscope. Doctors or other trained observers can then search the image for abnormalities or suspicious growth patterns.