Skin Cancer

University of British Columbia researchers have developed a specialized microscope that has the potential ability to both diagnose diseases that include skin cancer and perform incredibly precise surgery all without cutting skin. The researchers describe the technology in a study published today in Science Advances.

“Our technology allows us to scan tissue quickly, and when we see a suspicious or abnormal cell structure, we can perform ultra-precise surgery and selectively treat the unwanted or disease structure within the tissue without cutting into the skin, said Yimei Huang, co-lead author of the study and a former postdoctoral fellow at the department of dermatology and skin science at UBC and BC Cancer.

Digitally scanning of living tissue

The device is a specialize type of multi photon excitation microscope that allows imaging of living tissue up to about one millimeter in depth using an ultra fast infrared laser beam. What sets the researchers’ microscope apart from previous technology is that it’s capable of not only digitally scanning living tissue; but also treating the tissue by intensifying the heat produce by the laser.

When apply to treating diseases of the skin; so the microscope allows medical professionals to pinpoint the exact location of the abnormality, diagnose it and treat it instantly. It could be used to treat any structure of the body that is reach by light and that requires extremely precise treatment, including nerves or blood vessels in the skin, eye, brain or other vital structures.

They can alter the pathway of blood vessels without impacting any of the surrounding vessels or tissues, said study co-author Harvey Lui, professor at the department of dermatology and skin science at UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and a dermatologist at BC Cancer. “For diagnosing and scanning diseases like skin cancer, this could be revolutionary.

Multiphoton microscope technology

The researchers want to make multiphoton microscope technology; so more versatile while also increasing its precision. “They want to be able to identify what was happening under the skin; so from many different angles and to have the capability of imaging different body sites,” said senior author Haishan Zeng, professor of dermatology; so pathology and physics at UBC and distinguished scientist with BC Cancer.

Once we achieved that,  wondered whether they could transform this diagnostic device; so into a treatment device by simply turning up the power of the laser. The results were incredibly exciting. They are not only the first to achieve fast video-rate imaging that enables clinical applications; but also the first to develop this technology for therapeutic uses,” said Zeng.

The researchers have partnered with several UBC departments; so including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and ophthalmology; hence to develop different versions of the technology. Exploration includes research into the development of a miniature version that could be use to perform microscopic examinations; also treatment during endoscopy a non surgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract using an endoscope; hence a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it.f