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Biomedical Optics Research

Biomedical optics research at Drexel University and its partner institutions encompasses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), photodynamic therapy, high temperature microwave therapy, teraHertz surface imaging, passive microwave radiometry, nanoscale bioimaging and focused X-ray microscopy and therapy.

NIRS based studies are mainly focused on the functional optical brain imaging (fNIR) to monitor cognitive activity. The technology under development at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania is a wearable neuro-imaging device that enables continuous, non-invasive, minimally intrusive, portable and potentially wireless and wearable monitoring of changes in blood oxygenation and blood volume related to human brain function. The fNIR is implemented using continuous wave near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) which allows low-cost and low-power instrumentation. Over the last three years, the studies in the laboratory and under field conditions have established the positive correlation between a participant's performance and oxygenation responses as a function of task load. Our findings indicate that fNIR can effectively monitor attention and working memory in real-life situations. These experimental outcomes compare favorably with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, in particular the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) measurements. Applications of fNIR technology include human performance studies, clinical monitoring in emergency medicine, critical care, anesthesiology, obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics, neurorehabilitation, mental health, training and education as well as homeland security applications such as deception monitoring. Frequency domain NIRS studies are also ongoing in skin research, particularly, wound healing and neck tumor response to radiation therapy.

Photodynamic therapy research for treatment of different cancers, particularly, esophagus, brain, lung and prostate, utilizes photofrin as the photosensitizing material that is injected into the circulation and later activated at the site of interest. Photofrin absorbs light at the specific wavelength of 635nm. Upon activation of the photofrin, blood oxygen in the blood converts to singlet oxygen which in turn attacks the tumor. Other ongoing research include high temperature microwave thermal therapy in cancer treatment based on a microwave balloon system which creates cavities in solid tumor to deliver localized chemotherapy or immune therapy for metastasized cancer. Other projects center on passive radiometry to detect small size tumors in breast cancer using low noise microwave receivers. In the nanoscale, intracellular imaging using quantum dots and tapered nano-fiber probes are being tested in skin research and inflammation studies. Noninvasive surgical procedure based on focused X-ray optics to ablate cancer cells or coronary plaque and X-ray cellular miscroscopy are under development.

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2004 School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health systems. All rights reserved. Last Modified: 10/26/05