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The newly built system can identify the signal to tissue as deep as 8 centimeters.

New Tool to Detect Cancer at an Early Stage

By Kanika  •  

Researchers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed an imaging system, called DOLPHIN. It can identify tiny tumors deep inside the body. This research was published in the journal Scientific Reports on March 7, 2019.

According to the reports, earlier we had the biomedical optical imagining technique to detect cancer. This technology did not give a reliable outcome until it reaches about 1 centimeter in size. Computer Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are such technologies.

Researchers have built a new system DOLPHIN (Detection of Optically Luminescent Probes using Hyperspectral and diffuse Imaging in Near-infrared) that can identify the signal to tissue as deep as 8 centimeters. However, the existing biomedical optical imaging system can dig into the tissue upto 3 centimeters.

This new technology is based on near-infrared light that works on the wavelength from 900- 1700 nanometers. This enables the light for the deeper penetration into the tissue.

The team of researchers used hyperspectral imaging process that can imaging in multiple wavelengths of light. Later they collected the data generated from hyperspectral scan to track fluorescent light of different wavelengths.

Through this process, they located the depths of a specific probe. These probes can be modified for easy targeting and fluorescently label the specific cancer cell.

Neelkanth Bardhan, the lead author of the study, said, “In terms of practical applications, this technique would allow us to non-invasively track a 0.1-millimeter-sized fluorescently-labeled tumor, which is a cluster of about a few hundred cells. To our knowledge, no one has been able to do this previously using optical imaging techniques.”

Angela Belcher, is the senior author of the study, said, “We want a way to follow recurrence of the tumors, and eventually a way to find and follow early tumors when they first go down the path to cancer or metastasis. This is one of the first steps along the way in terms of developing this technology.”

According to the reports, the researchers are also further investing the various versions of this technique to identify the ovarian tumor at an early stage. The symptoms of the ovarian tumor are seen very late which makes its detection difficult at an early stage.

Besides ovarian cancer, researchers are also working on expanding the horizon of DOLPHIN to identify other types of cancer such as brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma.

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