Photonics in Healthcare

Photonics-based methods are helping to meet the increasing worldwide demand for rapid, accurate, personalized, and cost-effective healthcare interventions
04 February 2020
Photonics in healthcare industry session
Photonics in Healthcare Industry Session

The relationship between photonics and medicine go far beyond medical imaging technologies like MRI. Photonics-based methods are helping to meet the increasing worldwide demand for rapid, accurate, personalized, and cost-effective healthcare interventions.

On Sunday afternoon at 2020 SPIE Photonics West, industry experts discussed important advances in photonics in healthcare, including the selection and optimization of image sensors for medical imaging applications, fluorescence and spectral methods for image-guided surgery, fiber-based solutions for medical imaging, the use of acousto-optic elements for advanced microscopy, and the role of photonics in manufacturing of cell-based therapies.

The Quest Spectrum surgical platform is a good example of this type of transforming photonics for healthcare. Richelle Hoveling from Quest Medical Imaging in The Netherlands explained their prism-based imaging technique, which can image in RBG, methylene blue, and indocyanine green, and can enable imaging during both open and laparoscopic surgery with the same machine.

While Hoveling's presentation focused on Quest's product, Stefen Beyer, head of product development for Berliner Glas, focused on the process of developing medical imaging products. Berliner Glas is a full-service provider that begins with design and engineering, and manages certification, global supply chain management, and more. They do customized sensor development tailored to specific client needs. "We don't sell a product or application," he said, "we sell the way to the application."

Similarly, Andrew Robertson, senior vice president for Gooch & Housego, emphasized a manufacturing process for custom tools. Gooch & Housego manufactures acousto-optics, "a great old technology based on crystals whose optical properties can be controlled by sending sound waves through them," he said. Gooch & Housego grow the crystals and make the acousto-optic tunable filters that are ultimately used in confocal microscopy.

However, these talks were not limited to imaging systems for healthcare. Paul Goodwin, science director for GE Healthcare, discussed the role of photonics in pharmaceuticals. "We make products that enable our customers to manufacture or discover drugs used in cell therapy," he said. He also discussed the use of sensors in bioreactors that are being used to grow new cells and even new organs.

Other talks covered hyperspectral sensing technologies that enable wearables that can measure health parameters; photo bio-stimulation of single cells and large-area tissues; fiber-optic solutions for minimally invasive laser medicine using IR imaging and spectroscopy; and the importance of improvements in low-light imaging to advance medical research.

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