Real-time, 3-D microscopic tissue imaging could be a revolution for medical fields such as cancer diagnosis, minimally invasive surgery and ophthalmology. University of Illinois researchers have developed a technique to computationally correct for aberrations in optical tomography, bringing the future of medical imaging into focus.
The computational technique could provide faster, less expensive and higher resolution tissue imaging to a broader population of users. The group describes its technique this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
''Computational techniques allow you to go beyond what the optical system can do alone, to ultimately get the best quality images and three-dimensional datasets,'' said Steven Adie, a post-doctoral researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at theUniversity of Illinois. ''This would be very useful for real-time imaging applications such as image-guided surgery.''
Aberrations, such as astigmatism or distortion, plague high-resolution imaging. They make objects that should look like fine points appear to be blobs or streaks. The higher the resolution, the worse the problem becomes. It's especially tricky in tissue imaging, when precision is vital to a correct diagnosis.
Adaptive optics can correct aberrations in imaging. It's widely used in astronomy to correct for distortion as starlight filters through the atmosphere. A complex system of mirrors smooth out the scattered light before it enters the lens. Medical scientists have begun applying adaptive optics hardware to microscopes, hoping to improve cell and tissue imaging.
''It's the same challenge, but instead of imaging through the atmosphere, we're imaging through tissue, and instead of imaging a star, we're imaging a cell,'' said Stephen Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, of bioengineering and of internal medicine at the University of Illinois. ''But a lot of the optical problems are the same.''