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10-05/06 :: May/June 2010

nanotimes News in Brief

Cancer Medicine // Detecting Tumors Faster

Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS in Dresden, Germany, are aiming to considerably speed up cancer diagno- sis. They have developed a microscope head with a diameter of just eight millimeters which can optically resolve and magnify tissue cells measuring just 10 to 20μm. Fitted in the tip of an endoscope it will be used for in vivo cancer diagnosis, inserted in the body as in a minimally invasive surgical operation. The scientists envision that the MEMS (micro-electro- mechanical system) microscope head will eliminate the need for biopsies. Diagnosis in real time would enable doctors to decide on the necessary course of treatment more quickly.

“Microscopic image recorders that can be used on endoscopes have not been available up to now. We have developed the first laser-based sensor for this purpose,” says Dr. Michael Scholles, business unit manager at the IPMS. “In classic endoscopy using macroscopic imaging, the job can be done by CCD or CMOS image sensors, as used in digital came- ras and cellphones. For endomicroscopy, however, MEMS-based image sensors are highly advantageous because they can magnify even the smallest object fields, such as cells, without the need for a large lens. We have combined the sensor with a microscanner mirror to achieve the required resolution of 10μm and can therefore massively magnify the tiniest struc- tures.”

“An important aspect of the development was to produce a suitable microassembly for the endoscope head. Here we faced the challenge of making the complete system suitable for installation in the en- doscope, and we managed to do it. In future our mi- croscope head will be produced in large quantities in an automated process for subsequent installation in endoscopes,” explains Scholles. The expert envisages a wide range of applications for the system: “It could be used not only in medical and biological microsco- py but also in technical endoscopy, for instance to examine cavities in buildings or to inspect the insides of engines and turbines.”

http://www.ipms.fraunhofer.de/en/mems/

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