Double vision: hybrid medical imaging technology may shed new light on cancer

August 14, 2012
Simultaneous photoacoustic (a) and ultrasound (b) images of a rabbit esophagus show the clarity and detail gained by combining the two imaging techniques (c).

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Washington University in St. Louis have developed a new type of medical imaging that gives doctors a new look at live internal organs.

The imaging combines two existing forms of — photoacoustic and ultrasound — and uses them to generate a combined image that high-contrast, high-resolution image that could help doctors spot tumors more quickly.

“Photoacoustic endoscopy provides deeper penetration than optical endoscopy and more functional contrast than ultrasonic endoscopy,” said Lihong Wang, PhD, principle investigator and corresponding author of a study on the new technology that appeared in Nature Medicine on July 15, and the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor in the department of biomedical engineering in Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Wang collaborated with Qifa Zhou, Ruimin Chen and K. Kirk Shung of USC as well as Joon-Mo Yang, Christopher Favazza, Junjie Yao, Xin Cai, Konstantin Maslov from Washington University.

“This is a first time that we have had small endoscopy with two imaging modalities,” said Qifa Zhou, one of the principal investigators and co-authors of the study, and a professor at the NIH Resource Center for Medical Ultrasonic Transducer Technology at USC Biomedical Engineering.

Currently, doctors routinely employ ultrasound endoscopy to study . This technique places an ultrasound camera, similar to ones used to create images of fetuses, on a flexible scope that can be inserted internally.

Though these images are typically high-resolution, they are also low-contrast — making a dim image, like a photograph shot in a poorly lit room.

To address the problem, Wang, Zhou and their teams added a photoacoustic imaging device to the ultrasound endoscope. The resulting camera zaps organ tissue with a light. When the light is absorbed by tissue, the tissue gets slightly hotter and expands. That expansion produces a sound pressure wave that the ultrasound device on the endoscope picks up.

“This technology combines the best of both worlds,” said Kirk Shung, director of the NIH Resource Center and a professor of biomedical engineering at USC.

The researchers have tested their new device inside the gastrointestinal tract, producing in vivo images detailed enough to show blood vessels as well as the density of the tissue around them.

“This imaging has fine resolution and high contrast,” said Joon-Mo Yang, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Wang’s group. With a clearer picture of what’s going on inside the gastrointestinal tract, doctors could potentially spot colon and prostate cancers earlier.

Explore further: New imaging technique could speed cancer detection

Related Stories

New imaging technique could speed cancer detection

April 4, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A new imaging technique relies on light and sound to create detailed, color pictures of tumors deep inside the body. The technology, called photoacoustic tomography, may eventually help doctors diagnose ...

Recommended for you

Artificial beta cells

December 8, 2016

Researchers led by ETH Professor Martin Fussenegger at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel have produced artificial beta cells using a straightforward engineering approach.

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

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.