Light for Life

Journal of Biomedical Optics section celebrates IYL.

01 July 2015

cover of Journal of Biomedical Optics (JBO)The Journal of Biomedical Optics is celebrating the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL) with a special section on “Light for Life.”

Papers in the June issue of the journal give an overview as well as specific insights into the revolutionary impact of light technologies on medicine and biology, highlighting the ways that biophotonics has improved both medical diagnostics and treatments.

Guest editors of the special section are SPIE Fellows Katarina Svanberg (Sweden), a former SPIE president; Rainer Leitgeb (Austria); Nirmala Ramanujam (USA); and Jürgen Popp (Germany) along with SPIE Senior Member Peter Andersen (Denmark).

“Our armory to fight life-threatening diseases has been significantly enhanced by light-based technologies, either by improved diagnostics or by providing efficient image guidance during surgery, or for treatment itself,” the guest editors say in an editorial.

The collection of papers highlights the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of biomedical research that has produced new methods for noninvasive disease screening, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring and enabled novel approaches for disease detection, optical biopsy, and surgical guidance such as laser immunology and photodynamic therapy.

The editors say they hope the special section is a valuable resource, even for people outside the biomedical optics community. “They might get a glimpse of how light technologies have impacted biology and medicine today and how they reshaped our understanding in biomedical research,” they write.

Citing advances in laser applications, photodynamic therapy, and microscopy techniques, the editors note that the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for “opening the door to optical in-vivo nanometer imaging.”

“Modern light technologies play a vital role in our daily lives,” they write. “We live in exciting times.”


Among the papers in the special section is an open-access article on multiphoton microscopy (MPM) by a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MPM allows for deep tissue imaging with molecular contrast and high resolution and is the key imaging technique for studying the brain in vivo.

Recently introduced temporal focusing techniques allow parallel acquisition of multiphoton signatures over the full focal plane, thereby speeding up volumetric tissue imaging.

In “Objective, comparative assessment of the penetration depth of temporal-focusing microscopy for imaging various organs,” Christopher J. Rowlands and coauthors discuss the penetration depth of both techniques for different murine tissue and introduce an original method for quantitative assessment of the image quality over tissue depth.

Reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) imaging of the residual wound after a Mohs stage 1 excision.
Courtesy J. Biomed. Opt. 20(6)

Their results indicate that spot-scanning MPM outperforms temporal focusing but is still slower in acquisition time.

Eileen S. Flores and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (USA) contributed another open-access article. In “Intraoperative imaging during Mohs surgery with reflectance confocal microscopy: initial clinical experience,” they report on a new model for the micrographic surgery that has become standard procedure for treating non-melanoma skin cancer, a disease that is dramatically increasing worldwide.

Flores’ paper provides evidence that combining Mohs surgery with intraoperative optical imaging to outline tumor margins helps significantly ease the currently tedious and inefficient procedure of removing the malignant tissue. Although their work has been tried on only 25 patients with skin cancer, they propose that the technique may also be used in other types of surgery.


Two other articles of note discuss how biomedical optics is used in the study of brain function and show the process of laser technologies making their way out of the lab and into clinical practice.

Anna L.A. Mascaro and colleagues at University of Florence (Italy) review various neurophotonics techniques in “Towards a comprehensive understanding of brain machinery by correlative microscopy.” The researchers discuss hybrid techniques that correlate information from different imaging technologies such as magnetic resonance to light and electron microscopy to help bridge the gap between temporal and spatial scales of brain function.

In “Medical laser application – translation into the clinics,” an international team of researchers discusses the path from successful demonstration of new technologies to prototype systems and their actual translation into medical practice. Usually this long and cumbersome process requires patience, persistence, and financial support.

Lead author Ronald Sroka of Hospital of Munich University gives several examples of promising medical laser technologies that have overcome various barriers before finally achieving acceptance in the medical community.


logo for SPIE/OSA ECBOPublication of the IYL-themed scientific articles and reviews was timed to coincide with a “Hot Topics” session with the same “Light for Life” focus at the June 2015 SPIE/OSA European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) in Munich, Germany.

Organized by Leitgeb, the ECBO program chair, and moderated by Svanberg, the session brought together several internationally renowned experts to discuss emerging developments in biophotonics for the life sciences and to show how these technologies are poised to improve the human condition.

In separate plenary sessions at ECBO, 2014 Nobel Laureates Stefan Hell and Eric Betzig discussed how their breakthroughs allowed scientists to visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. SPIE Fellows Sune Svanberg and Federico Capasso and SPIE member Ernst H. K. Stelzer were also plenary speakers.

The special section in the Journal of Biomedical Optics can be found in the SPIE Digital Library.

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