Advances in biophotonic sensors: Revolutionizing medical diagnostics and research

Biophotonic sensors and systems are optical devices developed to deliver point-of-care diagnostics for medical practitioners and health researchers. They allow researchers to detect, sense, identify, and understand biological systems at the cellular/subcellular level, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of biological processes, conditions, and molecular changes.

Biophotonics is an emerging field demonstrating rapid growth, and optical designers and researchers are persistently developing new ways of capturing high-quality imaging, increased sensitivity detection, and more detailed analysis. Photonics technologies power medical advances like disease diagnosis, food and water safety, and drug efficacy testing. This article presents examples of biophotonic breakthroughs and how they are already making a difference across medical diagnostics and research.

Lab-on-a-chip point-of-care biophotonic sensors

Low-cost point-of-care biosensors that can deliver laboratory-quality results within minutes are making it possible to diagnose a disease early on and efficiently. This eliminates the need for expensive laboratory equipment, prolonged waiting times, and large laboratories.

For example, the lab-on-a-chip biosensors developed in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic helped combat the virus. The early spread of the disease was, in part, a result of inefficient testing protocols, and health researchers across the world worked hard to find a quick, reliable way to determine the presence of the virus.

One such way turned out to be a SARS-CoV-2 specific immunoglobulin G biophotonic sensor, which employed biofunctionalization to detect specific COVID-19 antibody selectivity. The sensors can be produced directly on the face of a single fiber optic, a single-mode fiber-28, and are sensitive enough to identify whether antibodies are present in a sample in around one minute’s time.

Modern biophotonic sensors can be built to fit the literal head of a pen and detect extremely low concentrations of antibodies

Modern biophotonic sensors can be built to fit the literal head of a pen and detect extremely low concentrations of antibodies. Image Credit: Avantier Inc.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) in dermatology

Previously, medical practitioners had to perform a biopsy to determine the presence of malignant tissue on the skin, but current optical coherence tomography technologies allow for a rapid, simple diagnosis without any skin excision. It can image skin to a depth of 2 mm, and resolution can be between 15 and 3 μm.

Advances in biophotonic sensors: Revolutionizing medical diagnostics and research

Image Credit: Avantier Inc.

Biophotonics can also be employed during surgery to ensure full removal of problematic tissue. Nanoparticles functionalized with fluorescent dyes are applied to the skin to assemble in a particular kind of tissue. Any malignant tissue will glow when the skin is exposed to the relevant wavelengths of dye. This allows the surgeon to use epifluorescent microscopy and optical detection to decide what needs to be removed and what can be left. 

AI and biophotonic analysis

Deep learning algorithms are key for natural language processing and humanoid chatbots, and they are also central to how biophotonic data is processed. Just as machines can learn to comprehend human language, they can also learn to read the fingerprints of cells, organelles, and molecules. This enables the automation of basic diagnostics, and verification steps can be programmed into the system to ensure that nothing goes awry. 

At times, label-free identification of biological compounds will require analysis of a complex spectrum, which can be achieved by feed-forward neural networks (multilayer perceptrons, MLP) or recurrent neural networks (RNNs). These neural networks can compare test spectrums with detailed cataloged records to predict the probability of abnormal growths, disease, or the presence of other molecules. 

Deep learning algorithms can also conduct matrix multiplication containing millions of parameters, resolving complex equations that enable denoising, semantic segmentation, disease recognition, and even pseudostaining. Every day, breakthroughs in AI technologies are accelerating processing techniques and the potential of these analytical methods. 

Examples of advances in machine learning and biophotonics include AI solutions that can pull from extensive imaging data libraries to automatically detect the signs of infection in the inner ear. The AI-powered software can evaluate an OCT image of the ear captured by a portable device within half a minute. The data is then translated for diagnosis just as an expert would. 

Another example of AI in real-world applications is an intraoperative diagnosis system using stain-free, slide-free multimodal multi-photon microscopy. The data-rich images captured by biophotonic technology usually take a very long time to evaluate manually, but an AI system can generate a reliable, verifiable diagnosis in just a few minutes. 

Avantier is at the forefront of pushing the scientific envelope with advances in biophotonics. If you need a custom optical component, Avantier can manufacture exactly what you need, and a team of optical designers is on hand to help you determine what configurations will be optimally suited for your system. 

About Avantier Inc.

Avantier Inc. is an unparalleled leader in providing imaging systems solutions and optical solutions.

They offer advanced precision custom optical design, optical engineering, optical lens assembly, rapid optical proto-typing, image processing and manufacturing services.

Avantier is ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016, and ISO 14001:2015 certified.


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Last updated: Jun 21, 2024 at 2:38 AM

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