Star Trek Tricorder revisited: Toward a genre of medical scanners

January 4, 2012

A hand-held scanner, reminiscent of the fictional Star Trek medical Tricorder, images blood vessels through the skin and projects a map onto the skin showing nurses exactly where to insert a needle. A pocket-sized device checks blood sugar levels through the skin of people with diabetes — no pinprick or blood sample needed. Those innovations are among a new genre of medical imaging technology that's giving doctors and scientists noninvasive views into the body to diagnose and study diseases. A report on the topic appears in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

In the article, C&EN Contributing Editor Aaron Alexander Rowe focuses on new optical techniques that use laser beams or so-called near-infrared light to peer painlessly below the skin and through muscle and bone to see body structures. Near-infrared light, just beyond the range visible to the human eye, penetrates several inches into the human body. Two devices described in the article project a near-infrared beam into the skull. The light passes through brain tissue and blood vessels, and then scatters back out, where detectors analyze it in ways that promise to reveal whether patients are bleeding from a stroke or have other disorders.

The article explains that some of the new light-based medical diagnostic tools — the blood vessel mapper, for instance — already are in use in hospitals and clinics. Others are in various stages of pre-clinical development, including devices intended to spot skin cancer, monitor how breast cancer is responding to treatments and produce 3-D images of blockages in .

The video will load shortly

Explore further: Catching cancer's spread by watching hemoglobin

More information: Lights and Lasers Invade the Clinic, cen.acs.org/articles/90/i1/Lights-Lasers-Invade-Clinic.html

Related Stories

Catching cancer's spread by watching hemoglobin

April 30, 2007

In an advance that can potentially assist cancer diagnosis, a new optical technique provides high-resolution, three-dimensional images of blood vessels by taking advantage of the natural multiple-photon-absorbing properties ...

Diagnosing skin cancers with light, not scalpels

June 4, 2007

In an early step toward nonsurgical screening for malignant skin cancers, Duke University chemists have demonstrated a laser-based system that can capture three-dimensional images of the chemical and structural changes under ...

Portable laser devices to improve disease diagnosis

September 22, 2010

Portable devices that use a laser beam to probe bones, teeth, and other parts of the body for early signs of diseases like osteoporosis and tooth decay may seem like something out of science fiction. But those devices are ...

A 'check engine' light for the human body?

March 16, 2011

Imagine a sensor implanted in your body that signals when you're getting sick -- almost like the "check engine" light in a car. That scenario sounds like pure fantasy, but it may be closer to reality than many people think, ...

Consumers' close encounters with nanoparticles

August 10, 2011

The most personal encounter that many consumers have had so far with the much-heralded field of nanotechnology is the topic of an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the American Chemical ...

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.