Researchers at UCLA have developed a new hologram technology that will make the diagnosis of Chronic Diseases not only more sophisticated, but also more affordable. To make tissue biopsies more efficient, this new system will use very simple optical instruments, a microscope that requires no lens and any computer that will be able to work with sophisticated algorithms that will reconstruct the images of samples taken. This will enable patients who live in remote areas or in developing regions of the world to have sophisticated examinations without having to bear excessive costs such procedures usually entail.

Simple technique, effective results

The development of holographic techniques in medicine is becoming more widespread.

Recently, Microsoft introduced its holographic lens that could be used in surgical procedures and even such 'ordinary' appliances as mobile phones can be used to diagnose genetic diseases by simply taking selfies. But the recent development of a new holographic technique by a research team from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), takes a further step in making such technology both effective and affordable.

In a recent paper titled "3D imaging of optically cleared tissue using a simplified CLARITY method and on-chip microscopy", published in "Science Advances", the team explains how they have made advances in tissue biopsy testing, something that is taken as a golden standard in detecting cancer as well as some inflammatory conditions. Standard biopsy tests require the use of very thin slices of human tissue, as thin as one-tenth of a human hair thickness.

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The other requirement is the use of fluorescent dyes which are not only quite expensive but degrade the tissue samples over time.

The team improved the testing technology in two ways. They started using a technique that involves light-absorbing dyes to make the tissue transparent. This, according to UCLA researchers makes possible the use of regular microscopes without even degrading the tissue samples. They also came up with a holographic lens-free microscope that costs a few hundred dollars to assemble and replaces a standard microscope used in biopsy testing that can cost over $50,000. Further on, this new method makes it possible to use tissue samples that are more than 20 times thicker than the standard sample used at the moment. This makes it possible for the scientists to have a larger number of samples they can study, making it easier to detect if anything is not the way it should be.

Making critical tests affordable almost anywhere

According to Yibo Zhang, the leading co-author of the study, they team was practically able to get a sophisticated medical image, using a technique commonly found in mobile phones and to have to use a greater sample size, making the results of such tests more conclusive.

By making it possible to develop technology that is much more affordable, the team has also made it possible for such critical tests to be carried out in areas where such sophisticated technology is not readily available, in situations when it is not readily possible to move a patient, or in developing regions where there are no means to use expensive testing methods.