16 April 2012

Easily swallowed - bleeding stopped

Photonics4Life presents successful examples of interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of biophotonics

Humans swallow between 1000 and 3000 times every day. The process to get food and fluids past the trachea and into the stomach however is a highly coordinated neuromuscular event. Even small dysfunctions in this mechanism have unpleasant consequences. From heartburn to the esophageal cancer, there are many disorders of the swallowing apparatus, which are currently studied with endoscopes as thick as a finger. For the patients this is an agonizing procedure, because the device passes through the esophagus gradually.

Researchers from the EU network Photonics4Life have now developed a pressure sensor catheter, which is as thin as spaghetti and thus easier for the patients to swallow. In addition, the fiber sensor measures the swallowing processes throughout the esophagus in up to 30 characters at once and with the speed of light. The group from the Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) from Jena uses fiber Bragg gratings for this task. These are lattice-like structures that the researchers write into the fiber during the manufacturing process. Mechanical pressure onto the catheter changes the lattice stucture inside and hence the light passing through the fiber bundle is reflected with altered wave lengths. The resulting spectrum can then be compared with that of healthy people. The IPHT has many years of experience with fiber Bragg gratings, but so far the setup was mainly adapted for industrial applications, such as the monitoring of wind turbines or platform beds and roads prone to landslides.

"With Photonics4Life we ​​want to bring this kind of interdisciplinary thinking to attention and consequently strengthen cooperation for the development of new efficient tools for rapid diagnosis and for affordable treatments," says Popp, director of the IPHT and coordinator of Photonics4Life. "Only by working together with engineers and physicians, the natural sciences can improve the future of health care considerably.“ His colleagues present the fiber sensor from Monday on at the Photonics Europe in Brussels, the largest conference for scientific innovations in the field of laser and optics research. This year one of the main topics is again Biophotonics - a multidisciplinary research area that utilizes light-based technologies in medicine and the life sciences. With more than 150 publications, this field presents the most scientific papers in Brussels.

At the show Photonics4Life presents another project that heals with light - in this case quite directly: Researchers from Florence have developed a device, which accelerates wound healing with ultraviolet light LED. For people with disturbances in the coagulation of their blood, for example due to genetic disorders such as hemophilia, even minor injuries can be dangerous. For them, the scientists have developed a first-aid device for personal use. In Brussels, they also introduce a device for the use in hospitals. This employs optical fibers to bring the light directly to the wound and is meant for use in dental and eye clinics or plastic surgery.

Round Robin Experiment

Raman spectroscopy has already proved its effectiveness in many cases for medical diagnostics such as for cancer, cardiovascular diseases and infections. However, there are no standards in the different working groups, e.g. for sample preparation, implementation of the Raman experiments, spectra pre-treatment, data evaluation, etc.In a round robin experiment, the required groundwork will take place in order to define standardised Raman measurement methods, which will be fundamental for establishing Raman spectroscopy for clinical diagnostic procedures.

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