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New camera inspired by butterfly eyes helps surgeons remove all cancerous tissue May cost as little as $200

Endoscopy may benefit from optical, precision X-ray

by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
Researchers have figured out a way to scale down an X-ray sensor to nanoscale proportions, to fit into the tip of an optical fiber. The potential of the finding in the small spatial scale realm could enable new high-precision medical imaging and therapeutic applications.

"We wanted to realize a new generation of X-ray detectors of improved performance — high sensitivity and faster response time — available in ultra-compact and flexible architectures compatible with endoscopy," Dr. Thierry Grosjean, CNRS researcher in the Department of Optics at FEMTO-ST Institute in Besancon Cedex, France, told HCB News.

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The researchers, who published their findings in the Optical Society Journal Optics Letters, said the same principle for miniaturizing an endoscopy scope tip with low energy would also be feasible for high-energy X-rays used for medical applications such as imaging and radiotherapy.

According to Grosjean, the principle behind their device is that it relies on the coupling of tiny scintillation clusters in an optic fiber. This fiber is then inserted into a patient’s body so that the clusters are set into contact, or close, to a targeted tumor.

The X-ray of the tumor during the procedure "excites" the scintillation clusters. This converts a small part of the high-energy radiation into light. This light is conducted out of the body thought the optical fiber to a detector.

This optical antenna solution could also provide "outstanding" ability to reduce the time delay between X-ray abortion, leading to a faster way to detect X-rays, Grosjean added. The research could open up new possibilities for endoscopic imaging.

"So far, the development of endoscopic techniques for X-ray dose detection has hardly been addressed," said Grosjean. "This, despite very promising perspectives in terms of control accuracy in medical processes."

To accomplish this, the researchers had to make a really tiny tip of nanoscale proportions - just a few tens of microns wide. By comparison, the average strand of hair at about 100 microns is about ten times as wide.

There is still much research and work to do. Grosjean said that so far, his team has demonstrated a proof of concept.

"We applied for a project call from our French national research agency to get funding for extending out technology to the dose detection of the higher X-rays used in medical imaging and therapies," said Grosjean. "We expect to achieve a prototype ready for medical applications in the next three years."

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