Diagnosing and treating disease non-invasively

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The ability to diagnose diseases and perform incredibly precise surgery without cutting the skin is something that patients and doctors worldwide would no doubt welcome. Now researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada say they have developed a specialized microscope capable of doing exactly that.

The technology allows doctors to scan tissue quickly, and when they observe a suspicious or abnormal cell structure, they can perform ultra-precise surgery and selectively treat the unwanted or diseased structure within the tissue, without cutting into the skin.

The device is a specialized version of a multiphoton excitation microscope, which allows imaging of living tissue up to about one millimeter in depth using an ultrafast infrared laser beam. In addition to this scanning feature, the newly developed microscope is also able to treat the tissue by intensifying the heat produced by the same laser.

When applied to treating diseases of the skin, the microscope allows medical professionals to pinpoint the exact location of the abnormality, diagnose it and treat it instantly. It could be used to treat any structure of the body that is reached by light and that requires extremely precise treatment, including nerves or blood vessels in the skin, eye, brain or other vital structures.

The device can alter the pathway of blood vessels without impacting any of the surrounding vessels or tissues. This could be revolutionary in diagnosing and scanning diseases like skin cancer, said the scientists behind the new product.

The researchers have now partnered with several UBC departments to develop different versions of the technology. Exploration includes developing a miniature version that could be used to perform microscopic examinations and treatment during endoscopy — a non-surgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract using a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, called an endoscope.