Brain tumor removal using new laser imaging

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A team led by UW researchers has developed laser imaging technology that can assist doctors in the removal of brain tumors. 

UW graduate students Benjamin Ecclestone and Saad Abbasi, Postdoctoral Fellow Kevan Bell, and Engineering Professor Paul Fieguth have developed Photoacoustic Remote Sensing (PARS) with doctors Deepak Dinakaran, John Mackey, and Frank van Landeghem of the University of Alberta. The imaging system guides doctors during surgery by clearly indicating where tumors and healthy tissues separate. 

The technology sends multi-coloured laser pulses into unstained tissue, which absorbs the pulses, heats up and expands, and produces sound waves. A second laser reads the waves to determine if the tissue is healthy or cancerous through cellular and nuclear structure imaging of human tissue preparation. 

The accuracy of this technique is comparable to gold standard laboratory tests for quality and contrast, such as hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining. Results from existing laboratory tests can take up to two weeks, and though tissue samples can be examined during surgery, tests can take up to 30 minutes and yield poor results. Results from PARS are almost instantaneous, similar to a real-time capable microscope. As such, PARS can greatly improve the extent of surgical resection. 

“That opens up an extremely promising path towards our ultimate goal – a non-contact, surgical microscope that in real-time can guide doctors toward very safe, maximal resection with no waiting,”  Haji Reza, Director of the PhotoMedicine Labs at Waterloo,said.

The researchers recognize that missed cancerous tissue during brain surgery is associated with poor clinical outcomes and survival rates. The amount of  cancerous tissue removed must also be as minimal as possible to prevent a negative impact on the patient.h  This is especially important since malignant brain cancer is one of the deadliest diseases. 

“As you can imagine with the brain, doctors need to minimize the amount of tissue they remove because of the impact on the patient,”  Parsin Haji Reza, a Systems Design Engineering Professor ,who leads the project, said “There is a very fine line.”

The researchers founded a company- ‘IllumiSonics’- ,      for commercializing   the system. They hope to have PARS in operation systems by the end of 2021. Furthermore, within three to five years they aim to develop a surgical microscope capable of imaging the brain itself during surgery, without need for any tissue samples.

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