Researchers have shown that existing light field technology could be used to produce microscopic 3-D images of tissue inside the body, paving the way toward 3-D optical biopsies.
Unlike normal biopsies where tissue is harvested and sent off to a lab for analysis, optical biopsies enable clinicians to examine living tissue within the body in real-time. The minimally-invasive approach uses ultra-thin micro endoscopes to peer inside the body for diagnosis or during surgery but normally produces only two-dimensional images.
The new research has now revealed the 3-D potential of the existing microendoscope technology. The development is a crucial first step toward 3-D optical biopsies, to improve diagnosis and precision surgery.
The new light field technology uses a light field imaging approach to produce microscopic images in stereo vision, similar to the 3-D movies that you watch wearing 3-D glasses. Stereo vision is the natural format for human vision, where we look at an object from two different viewpoints and process these in our brains to perceive depth.
The researchers have shown that it’s possible to do something similar with the thousands of tiny optical fibers in a microendoscope. These optical fibers naturally capture images from multiple perspectives, giving us depth perception at the microscale.