Optics 101

How Will Optical Imaging Change in The Future?

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Optical imaging is a technology which explains the characteristics of infrared, ultraviolet and visible light. ​It is a non-invasive technique which uses non-ionizing radiation in order to obtain images of tissues and organs. These images can be used by clinicians in order to diagnose and prevent diseases.

Inside an Optical Imaging System

The three central components of an optical imaging system are:

  • Light source
  • Filters for selecting appropriate wavelengths
  • Detection system

The basis of optical imaging technology involves the detection of photons emitted from a sample at a pre-defined wavelength. The mechanism of production of light may differ in different techniques.

In fluorescence imaging, the light is produced when a fluorophore is excited upon absorbing incident light. In bioluminescence imaging, the light is biochemically produced when an enzyme is artificially introduced into the sample.

Using the Optical Imaging Technology

The key application areas of optical imaging technology include:

  • Drug discovery
  • Medical diagnostics – oncology, neurology, dermatology, and opthamology
  • Life science and clinical research

Future of Optical Imaging

Optical imaging is already making a strong impact on fundamental and translation medical research. During the last decade, rapid developments in genomics, laser technology and biophotonics have resulted in the evolution of novel imaging methods with high-resolution imaging applications.

Image Credit: Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta / Shutterstock.com

One such promising technology is fluorescence imaging that is widely used for initial clinical testing in areas such as breast imaging and endoscopy. Although the mode of introducing fluorescence in deep tissues will continue to be a challenge, diagnostic tests which employ fluorescent probes are likely to be developed. In order to enhance developments within this field, several organizations such as the National Institutes of Health have committed to fund optical imaging research.

Optical imaging is an emerging technology which has the potential to enhance the field of clinical research, drug development, medical diagnosis and disease pathogenesis. The technology will be able to provide accurate images of in-depth structures such as soft tissues and membranes.

References and Further Reading


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