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New Infrared Chemical Imaging Method to Diagnose Cancers

Prostate cancer can be very difficult to diagnose, with way too many patients undergoing surgeries that turn out to be unnecessary. Now, researchers at Purdue University, Boston University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed an infrared chemical imaging technique that may improve diagnostic studies and in the process cut down on excess surgeries. The same technology, because it images at a submicron resolution with biomarker information, may also have a significant impact in diagnosing breast and other cancers.

The new technique provides a look at a relatively large sample area while allowing for rapid imaging. The cells in the sample remain alive, helping to preserve their natural state and the biomarkers within, and the samples do not require any drying steps.

It involves illuminating a tissue sample using an infrared excitation laser and a visible probe laser and measuring changes between the hot and cold states. Using photothermal detection allowed the scientists to lower the imaging resolution by an order of magnitude when compared with conventional infrared microscopy. Because the team used a special “lock-in” camera, it was possible to process a million pixels per second of imaging data, which covers a pretty good chunk of tissue. Study in journal Science Advances: Ultrafast chemical imaging by widefield photothermal sensing of infrared absorption

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