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Bio-optics Breakthroughs Conference to Be Held in San Jose

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | September 30, 2009
Optical Society of America
The Optic Society's 93rd annual meeting will be called "Bio-optics breakthroughs: Highlights of medical and bioscience research and presented on Oct. 11-15 at the Fairmont San Jose Hotel and the Sainte Claire Hotel in San Jose.

Several "high-quality" papers will be discussed, while the breakthrough devices tested in the papers will showcased.

"This year's Frontiers in Optics conference, the Optical Society's 93rd
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Annual Meeting, covers the depth and breadth of cutting-edge optics and
photonics research," said Gregory Quarles, FiO general chair. "Among several areas of hot research topics, bio-optics figures prominently into the mix, including the latest breakthroughs in optical tweezing, optical coherence tomography, optical imaging and lasers in medicine."

The highlighted technologies include live imaging of a developing heart using optical coherence tomography (OCT); a scope to help premature babies breathe; nano surgery with powerful laser pulses; a digital camera that improves scanning quality, especially when patients move while a shot is being taken; and optical tweezers to help researchers grab proteins.

Following is a synopsis of the papers being discussed.


Approximately one of every 100 babies born in the United States each year comes into the world with a heart defect. Though there is a long history of understanding cardiovascular development and diseases, says Kirill Larin of the University of Houston, very little is known about the dynamics of the normal and abnormal embryonic heart.

Half a century ago, the physicist Richard Feynman said that one of the easiest ways to understand a fundamental biological process is to "just look at the thing," and for a highly complicated process like embryonic heart development and dynamics, he may be right. Being able to watch a young heart begin to beat and form chambers would show scientists a lot--perhaps even revealing the developmental causes of heart abnormalities and other birth defects. But looking at a developing embryo in the womb is easier said than done. Fluorescence microscopes lack the ability to penetrate the skin deeply enough to image an embryo. Medical ultrasound devices can penetrate fully, but they lack the resolution necessary to reveal the details of development.

Now Larin and colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have shown that they can image live mouse embryos cultured outside of the uterus at different stages of development. Using a technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT), they are able to visualize early cardio dynamics and perform blood flow measurements, even from individual cells. OCT works by beaming infrared light on the embryonic tissues and then gating the back-reflected photons from different depths inside the tissues using low-coherence interferometry.