BiOS: San Francisco's Saturday night hot spot

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--While Saturday night may seem an atypical time for a series of technology presentations, the packed room at the Photonics West Biomedical Optics (BiOS) symposium from 7–9 pm on Saturday, January 23rd showed just how "hot" the biomedical optics and photonics community has become.

Feb 1st, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--While Saturday night may seem an atypical time for a series of technology presentations, the packed room at the Photonics West Biomedical Optics (BiOS) symposium from 7–9 pm on Saturday, January 23rd showed just how "hot" the biomedical optics and photonics community has become. Some 860 or so individuals staved off tiredness (and the probable desire to instead visit one of San Francisco's many night clubs or eateries) to hear ten researchers present the latest research in this field.

After presentation of the SPIE/BiOS Lifetime Achievement Award to Reginald Birngruber from Medizinisches Laserzentrum Lubeck GmbH for his work on ophthalmic laser therapies, a very humble Birngruber launched into a review of the role of the laser in photothermal, photomechanical, and photochemical treatment and analysis of the eye from 1947 to 2007. Over those 60 years, Birngruber explained that much of the work focused on establishing laser safety standards and in understanding the wavelength-dependent absorption of light in various layers of eye tissue. For example, pulse length and duration had much to do with achieving higher precision in photocoagulation with less collateral damage, while analysis of living and dead eyes (in rabbits) revealed the cooling effect of blood on optical power. Birngruber noted that while the past 60 years has been spent understanding laser ophthalmology, the future will address clinical devices and expanded clinical trials for laser therapies.

Many of the speakers had difficulty keeping to their ten-minute presentation limit, in part because the complex topics warranted much longer presentations. In "Breast Cancer Therapy," Nirmala Ramanujam from Duke University opened with the staggering statistic that 1.5 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, with 1/3 of those succumbing to death usually due to cancer metastases. Ramanujam is hopeful that optical technologies can improve the intra-operative assessment of cancer and remove any growths or cancerous tissue before it has the opportunity to spread to other parts of the body. She discussed how Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy can each see different tissues (like collagen and muscle) that aid in cancer diagnosis.

Besides cancer, heart disease is another ruthless killer. Joseph Schmitt, CTO of LightLab Imaging, explained in the next talk how "Intravascular OCT Extends Reach to Clinical Practice" using a MEMS tunable laser developed by Axsun and licensed by LightLabs. This Fourier-domain intra-coronary optical coherence tomography (OCT) system can image in the blood field of a beating heart using a fiber endoscopic imager rotating at 100 fps to image coronary arteries.

After a talk from Amiram Grinvald of Optical Imaging on "Retinal Functional Imaging" which recalled much of the research described by Birngruber, Brian Pogue from Dartmouth University spoke on "Diffuse Molecular Imaging: Detecting Invisible Changes In Vivo" and described how image-guided optical molecular spectroscopy has huge market potential (see page 2). He plugged www.nirfast.org, Dartmouth's open-source FEM-based software package designed for modeling near-infrared frequency domain light transport in tissue.

And just before I succumbed to tiredness, Irving Bigio from Boston University discussed how elastic scattering spectroscopy (ESS), although it has been around since 1991, has recent "sizzling" developments: It appears that ESS may be able to assess cancer risk by showing how signals in one part of an unaffected colon could point to actual polyps in another part of the colon. 'Sizzling' indeed!

--Gail Overton

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