“Seeing the invisible”: new tech enables deep tissue imaging during surgery

Researchers from Tokyo University of Science, RIKEN, and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have developed the world’s first rigid endoscope system capable of hyperspectral imaging (HSI) from visible to over-thousand-nanometer (OTN) wavelengths. This breakthrough technology, published in Optics Express, promises to revolutionize medical and industrial applications by enabling the visualization of previously unseen information.

Unlocking the Power of Hyperspectral Imaging

Unlike traditional imaging techniques that capture light intensity at specific wavelengths, HSI collects a full spectrum at each pixel in an image. This rich spectral data allows for the distinction between different materials and substances based on their unique spectral signatures. Near-infrared hyperspectral imaging (NIR-HSI) has gained significant attention in the food and industrial fields as a non-destructive technique for analyzing object composition.

“An SC light source can output intense coherent white light, whereas an AOTF can extract light containing a specific wavelength. This combination offers easy light transmission to the light guide and the ability to electrically switch between a broad range of wavelengths within a millisecond,” explains Professor Hiroshi Takemura from Tokyo University of Science.

Demonstrating the System’s Capabilities

The research team verified the optical performance and classification ability of the system, showcasing its capability to perform HSI in the range of 490–1600 nm. The low light power of extracted wavelengths enables non-destructive imaging, and the system can be downsized for increased portability.

To demonstrate the system’s potential, the researchers used it to acquire the spectra of six types of resins and employed a neural network for pixel-by-pixel classification. When the OTN wavelength range was extracted from the HSI data for training, the neural network achieved an impressive 99.6% accuracy, 93.7% reproducibility, and 99.1% specificity in classifying seven different targets, including the six resins and a white reference.

The proposed HSI technology is expected to facilitate new applications in industrial inspection and quality control, working as a “superhuman vision” tool. In the medical field, it could enable the identification of invaded cancer areas and the visualization of deep tissues such as blood vessels, nerves, and ureters during surgical procedures, leading to improved surgical navigation.

“By visualizing the invisible, we aim to accelerate the development of medicine and improve the quality of life of physicians as well as patients,” remarks Prof. Takemura.

Keyword/phrase: near-infrared hyperspectral imaging endoscope

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