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Engineers design new optical microprobe to detect subsurface organ abnormalities

s up to 2,000 times a second on hinges just 3 millionths of a meter wide. The mirror quivers in response to the action of more than one-half million microscopic energy-storing capacitors arranged in parallel strips of the flexible plastic polyimide.

This arrangement acts like artificial muscle, Smith said. "When a voltage is applied to each of these capacitors, they contract. That pulls the mirror to the right. When the voltage is turned off, the mirror then swings back to the left." As the voltage rapidly switches on and off and the mirror vibrates, a beam of light from a fiberoptic cable is reflected onto a tissue surface in a scanning pattern. This repeat scanning produces optical images of the tissues' outer layers.

The artificial muscle was made at MCNC, a Research Triangle Park microelectronics and computer research institution founded by the state of North Carolina. Zara and Smith have also founded a startup company, Memscept, Inc., to market the research.

The idea of using light as a deeper probe, called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), was pioneered at MIT, where Izatt was a postdoctoral scientist. He continued developing the concept while on the faculty of Case Western Reserve University before coming to Duke.

"The standard endoscope gives a physician an internal view of hollow organ surfaces with white light," Izatt said. "What OCT does is look below those surfaces.

"It can look up to about a millimeter and a half deep into the walls of organs," he added. "That's sufficient to detect cancers such as carcinomas which grow near tissue surfaces, while they are still small enough to be completely removed. A physician's normal view of the surface would not see a cancer there, but we can see it with OCT because we are looking underneath."

Izatt acknowledged that light waves cannot penetrate near as far into the skin as ultrasound, a competing technology that uses sound waves to image internal structures. On
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
16-Apr-2003


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