Hong Kong lasers and medical research

By Peace Post Staff/ Image: University of Hong Kong

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have devised a revolutionary laser—with far reaching applications from disease diagnosis to basic scientific research.

Pioneered by Dr. Kevin Tsia, Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, the new laser advances scanning imaging techniques by more than 100 times the previous speed and with higher resolution.

Dr. Tsia said, “Being 100 times faster in imaging speed than state-of-the-art imaging flow cytometers without losing the image information content, this technology could be an effective and efficient tool to analyse individual cells, e.g. cancer cells, in great details within an enormous population of cells.”

According to a statement from the University of Hong Kong, “The new technique not only can resolve the current challenge to meet the ever-increasing demand for speed and throughput, but could also empower new discovery in basic scientific research, with potential applications in a new generation of biomedical microscopy for precise and early diagnosis of diseases.”

The technology is known by the acronym FACED imaging, or free-space angular chip-enhanced delay. The crux of the innovation is a pair of parallel mirrors called the “infinity mirror.”

The University of Hong Kong statement notes, “They combine ultrafast pulsed laser and a ‘tilted’ mirror-pair to create an ultrafast sweeping laser beam. The pulsed beamlets are projected onto different positions at different arrival times and behave as a scanning optical beam.”

Moreover, “Combing FACED imaging with microfluidic technology, the team demonstrated high-resolution and high-throughput single-cell imaging at 10,000 to 100,00 cells per second, which is almost 100 times faster than current microscopy. Such a high throughput imaging could be particularly beneficial for cancer diagnosis by providing an effective and efficient method to detect rare cancer cells in a pool of billions of blood cells. It opens new potentials where high-speed and high-throughput biological microscopy are needed but were once out of reach.”

Dr. Tsia noted,“The technology can also be applied to high-speed cellular dynamics monitoring, for example, neuronal firing for studying complex brain functions and diseases including brain degeneration like   Alzheimer’s or brain disorder.”

Dr. Wu Jianglai, a postdoctoral researcher of the work, said, “Current standards of laser scanning are predominantly based on mechanical scanning mirrors to steer the laser beam direction. But, their scanning speed are inherently limited by mechanical inertia and can only reach up to about 10-100kHz.”

The next challenge will be to deal with the, “unprecedentedly huge amount of image data” for analyzing and the roles artificial intelligence could play in it.

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