3-D Optical Biopsies Possible Because of Advancement in Light Field Technology​

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Existing optical fibre technology can be used to generate microscopic 3-D images of tissue inside the body, setting a precedent for the 3-D optical biopsies, researchers from the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia show.

Optical biopsies empower clinicians to investigate living tissue within the body in real time in comparison to normal biopsies where tissue is collected and sent to a lab for analysis.

This minimally invasive technique utilizes ultra-thin microendoscopes to glare inside the body for diagnosis or in the time of surgery, and usually generates only two dimensional images.

Lead author of the development, Dr. Antony Orth said that the new approach uses a light field imaging method generate microscopic images in stereo vision, very much alike 3-D movies watched through 3-D glasses.

Dr. Orth, the research fellow in the RMIT node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) explained that the stereo vision is the normal format for human vision, where we look at something from two separate points of view and process it in our brains to understand depth. This process is similarly done with the thousands of small optical fibres in a microendoscope, and it has been proved that the optical fibres simply capture images from numerous perspectives, giving the researchers depth perception at the microscale

How it works

​The optical fibre wraps send 3-D data in the form of a light field. The process then is to control the recorded data, unscramble it and generate an image that makes sense.

Researchers’ new method gets rid of these challenges and works even when the optical fibre curves and flexes, which is crucial for clinical use in the human body.

The technique draws on principles of light field imaging, where normally numerous cameras look at the same area from different perspectives.

The angle of the rays towards every camera is measured by the light field imaging systems which are then registering information about the angular spreading of light to generate a ‘multi-viewpoint image’.

The fibres ‘remember’ how light was originally sent in and that’s how the angular information is recorded through the optical fibres.

RMIT researchers and colleagues created a mathematical scheme to apply the output patterns to the light ray angle.

Professon Brant Gibson, Chief Investigator and Deputy Director of the CNBP explained that using just the data in a single image they can figure out the 3-D arrangement of a microscopic fluorescent sample by measuring the angle of the rays landing into the system.

Besides medical applications, the ultra-thin light field imaging device could eventually be utilized for in vivo 3-D fluorescence microscopy in biological research.


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