MIT Develops New Optical Imaging System To Detect Early Microscopic Tumors

- Apr 09, 2019-

Everyone knows that early detection of cancer should be detected early, but too small a tumor is difficult to find. When the tumor is large enough to be discovered, it may be too late to miss the best time for treatment. Recently, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new optical imaging system called Dolphin (DOLPHIN) that detects tiny tumors deep in the body.


Today's instruments often choose between the depth and resolution of medical imaging. For example, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) can see images throughout the body, but cannot be seen. Tumors smaller than 1 cm; optical imaging techniques can see smaller tumors, but only see a depth of about 3 cm from the body surface.


In the new study, researchers tried to achieve the best image depth and resolution. Near-infrared light has a longer wavelength than other optical methods, can penetrate deeper parts of the human body and achieve higher resolution. The new method uses hyperspectral imaging to image multiple near-infrared light at a time.


The researchers collected the signals in vitro and then used the algorithm developed by the team to analyze the position and depth of the detector's received signal. The research team called this method "Detection of Optically Luminescent Probes using Hyperspectral and diffuse Imaging in Near-infrared (DOLPHIN).


The team used a detector with different nanoparticles to test the DOLPHIN system (different nanoparticles emit near-infrared light of different wavelengths), then let the mice swallow the detector and track the detector's position in the digestive system. This method is unique in that the detector is only 0.1 mm long and much smaller than the detectors commonly used in general optical imaging.


In another test, detectors injected into rats and mice were able to detect depths of about 4 cm, and when tested in animal tissue and human body tissue, the maximum depth was twice as large.


As far as the current situation is concerned, this is only a concept, knowing that the DOLPHIN system can be used to image small, deep objects in the human body. Researchers are adjusting the detector to find and label tumors and let the tumors fluoresce.


The research team will focus on ovarian cancer, which is often found in the terminal phase and is difficult to treat. Pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, and skin cancer are also the targets of the researchers. Research co-author Neelkanth Bardhan said: "In practical applications, this technology allows us to track fluorescently labeled tumors of 0.1 mm in a non-invasive manner. And this is a cell mass made up of hundreds of cells. As far as we know, no one else can use optical technology to do this."


The new study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.