Researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a tiny fiber-optic probe that can measure temperatures deep inside the body, while imaging structures in the region of interest. The probe, which has a similar thickness to a human hair, could help researchers to investigate the effects of drugs that raise temperatures in specific parts of the body, or optimize thermal treatments for cancers. Because the probe is so thin, it is minimally invasive and could also help researchers to record other types of physiological data.
The research team wanted to develop a way to find better treatments for drug-induced brain overheating. “Using some drugs such as ecstasy can make certain brain regions overheat and then become damaged,” said Jiawen Li, a researcher involved in the study. To do this, the team needed to precisely measure temperatures in specific brain regions.
Their solution is an ultra-thin fiber-optic probe with a lens at its tip. To allow it to measure temperature, the probe includes a layer of rare-earth-doped tellurite glass. The lens can perform optical coherence tomography imaging, while the probe simultaneously senses temperature.
“With an outer diameter of only 130 microns, the probe is as thin as a single strand of human hair,” said Li. “This means it can be delivered deep inside the body in a minimally invasive way. It also allows us to see and record physiological data in real time that we weren’t able to access before.”
The research team has tested the probe’s sensing capabilities in rat brains. In the future, they hope to study the hyperthermic effects of drugs in the brain, with a view to developing new treatments. Other applications include optimizing hyperthermic treatments used to destroy solid tumors.
While this first-generation probe can image tissue and sense temperature, the researchers hope that future versions may be able to make other measurements, such as oxygen saturation and pH, allowing insight into a wider array of disease states.
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