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New Optical Imaging Methods See Skin-Deep

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The Journal of Biomedical Optics has published a special section devoted to noninvasive optical techniques for imaging just below the surface of the skin.

The section encompasses 31 papers. In his introduction to the section, Guest Editor Jürgen Lademann of the Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany says:

Easily accessible, the skin is an ideal object to be investigated by noninvasive optical and spectroscopic methods.

He adds, “It will also be shown that a single technique suitable for all issues is not available, but that it is necessary to select the optimum technique for the specific purpose.”

The technologies include fluorescence, reflectance, laser scanning microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy, among others. Uses include imaging blood flow, analyzing the healing of wounds, identifying tissues and fluids just below the skin’s surface, and investigating the penetration of drugs applied into and through the skin barrier.

Here’s a quick sample of some of the papers:

  • Noncontact imaging photoplethysmography can be used to measure pulse rate remotely, using a webcam as the sensor.
  • Optical coherence tomography can image the density of blood vessels in scar tissue and monitor the progression of scarring (and healing).
  • An optical clearing agent and saline solution can open or close a skin “window” allowing optical imaging techniques to see more effectively below the skin’s surface and assess microcirculation within skin tissue itself.
  • Digital infrared thermal imaging can noninvasively assess the depth and severity of burns in children and can help in estimating the size of skin grafts needed for deep burns.
  • An imaging technique called spectrophotometric intracutaneous analysis, developed for diagnosis of pigmented skin lesions, doesn’t do a very good job with invasive melanomas.
  • Diffusion reflection can measure gold nanorod concentrations near the skin surface, which could make it a useful cancer diagnostic tool.

Related CME seminar (up to 20 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Practical Body Imaging

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