In both disease processes, early detection and precision can impact patient outcomes. Atherosclerotic plaque builds up quietly, usually causing no symptoms until reaching an advanced stage, and the results take more than 1 million American lives each year. Malignant brain tumors called gliomas grow and spread into neighboring tissues rapidly. When "image complete" resection is accomplished meaning no tumor is visible on high-resolution scans patients have a median survival of about 70 weeks. But when surgical removal is less than image complete, median survival drops to less than 19 weeks.
The technology to be described at CLEO is based on the fact that when molecules in cells are stimulated by light, they respond by becoming excited and re-emitting light of varying colors. Just as a prism splits white light into a full spectrum of color, laser light focused on tissues is re-emitted in colors that are determined by the properties of the molecules. When these emissions are collected and analyzed (fluorescence spectroscopy), they provide information about the molecular and biochemical status of the tissue.
"Time-resolved" spectroscopy adds a greater degree of specificity, measuring not only the wavelength of the emission but the time that molecules remain in the excited state before returning to the ground state. This information is valuable because some emissions overlap on the light spectrum but have different "decay" characteristics.