Cheaper Bioimaging

Researchers from MIT have developed a low-cost biomedical imaging system, and they did so coming in at just a thousandth the cost of current systems (which run about $100,000). In order to work so inexpensively, the new system uses techniques employed in consumer imaging like Microsoft’s Kinect. These methods are known as fluorescence lifetime imaging. Author Ayush Bhandari says that imaging systems like the Kinect can be used “to do bioimaging in much the same way that the microscope is doing."

"The theme of our work is to take the electronic and optical precision of this big expensive microscope and replace it with sophistication in mathematical modeling," continues Bhandari, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab.

Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging

The technique relies on the tendency of materials to absorb light and then reflect that light after a short period of time. These materials are called fluorophores and they predictably vary the interval (lifetime) between absorption and emission of light depending on which chemicals it interacts with, and in so doing, reveals information about a sample’s chemical composition.

Traditional fluorescence lifetime imaging systems emit light bursts at a one thousandths of nanoseconds (picoseconds), while consumer systems like the Kinect emit light bursts at only tens of nanoseconds. To make up for the difference, the researchers subject it to a Fourier transform, which breaks down the signal into different frequencies. This allows them to recover information on fluorescence lifetimes that are much shorter than those of the emitted light bursts.

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