LIBS shows promise for cancer diagnostics

STARKVILLE, MS-Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has experienced a surge of growth in recent years.

STARKVILLE, MS-Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has experienced a surge of growth in recent years. The development of new laser sources and portable instrumentation is helping LIBS find a niche in everything from environmental monitoring and materials analysis to homeland security, space-based research, and medical diagnostics.

Researchers from Mississippi State University believe they can diagnose and classify cancer in vivo by using LIBS to determine the intensity ratio of trace elements in normal and cancerous material. Headed by Jagdish Singh of the Diagnostic Instrumentation and Analysis Laboratory (DIAL) at MSU, the team are working with LIBS to distinguish between normal and malignant tumor cells in tissue samples. By applying LIBS to normal and cancerous canine liver samples, the researchers discovered that the intensity ratios of calcium/potassium and sodium/potassium were significantly higher in the malignant tissue spectra.

“Cancer diagnosis and classification, which can be extremely complicated, often rely upon subjective interpretation of biopsy material,” Singh said. “These labor-intensive methods could produce different results, depending on the histopathologist doing the examination. Automated, real-time diagnostic procedures would make the procedure easier and the results more accurate.”

While LIBS has been a known technology since the 1960s, it was considered difficult to perform. The development of compact, high-performance optical equipment, such as Q-switched Nd:YAG lasers that emit millijoule pulses, and high-resolution broadband spectrometers, has made it possible to perform field analyses with LIBS.

-Ilene Schneider

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