A new device from Northwestern University is set to revolutionize medical scanning procedures. Officially dubbed the "Micro-ring," this resonator detector can be placed on a contact lens and detect a patient's blood flow and oxygen metabolic rate.
Researchers trace the beginning of the Micro-ring back to 2006 when Hao F. Zhang, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, began developing photoacoustic imaging. This imaging procedure uses both sound and light waves to produce clear biological images, and it's currently being used in many breast cancer screenings and nanoscopic cellular imagings.
While Professor Zhang was developing this retinal imaging technology, another associate professor at Northwestern approached Dr. Zhang with an idea. This professor of ophthalmology, Dr. Amani Fawzi, told Dr. Zhang he wanted a device able to measure various biological activities using data from the back of a patient's eyes.
Taking on Dr. Fawzi's challenge, Zhang teamed up with Cheng Sun, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, as well as a few post-doctoral students. Drs. Zhang and Sun have just published their findings in the most recent edition of Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
Both Zhang and Sun decided to start off on this ambitious endeavor by developing an extremely small device able to fit in a contact lens. What made this project even more challenging was the fact that they needed to make this product transparent, soft, and able to produce a resolution within the hundreds of megahertz.
The Northwestern researchers began developing a device that would fit on an eyelid, but they soon found that that method wasn't going to work. After a few months of trying this method, they came up with the idea for a "ring" that could be placed inside a contact lens for one time usage during any diagnostic procedure.
Finally, after three long years of work, they created the Micro-ring resonator. The Micro-ring is an astonishing 60 micrometers in diameter and only 1 micron in height.
Although the Micro-ring is not available for widespread use just yet, numerous professionals are interested in incorporating it into their work. For example, urologists believe the Micro-ring can help them track the optics of breast cancer cells.
In addition to urologists, many neurologists want to use Micro-rings to test the effects of various drugs on the brains of stroke patients. These neurologists first want to put Mirco-rings on rodents and then run various tests on their brains to determine the efficacy of various drug therapies.
Interestingly, it isn't only people in the medical field who want to use the Micro-ring. Many geologists believe Micro-rings can be implanted into the earth's surface to better detect earthquakes.
As of this moment, Northwestern scientists are working with various organizations to perfect their device. Just a few institutions working with Drs. Zhang and Sun include the Argonne National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.
Zhang and Sun published their most recent article under the title "Optical Detection of Ultrasound in Photoacoustic Imaging." There's no word yet on when the Micro-ring will be available for clinical use.