Photonics in its bio-manifestation

Photonics applications in the life sciences have long been some of the most compelling and exciting uses of the technology.

Conardmug 2011c

Photonics applications in the life sciences have long been some of the most compelling and exciting uses of the technology—they are applications that many scientists, including numerous Nobel Laureates, and even non-specialists can relate to because they often concern human health. Perhaps we can cure some of the ailments that can afflict us, or can extend our physical and mental health as we age.

It is challenging indeed to try keeping pace with the most recent advances and the options available for a given system design or procedure. This month, we sample a few of the most recent advances, starting with our cover story on adaptive optics systems that are opening the door to in vivo super-resolution microscopy—a capability with profound implications, especially for neuroscience. These imaging systems are being advanced by several teams of researchers and are reported on by our chief editor of BioOptics World, Barbara Gefvert (see article). Barbara also reports on another in vivo imaging system that combines shortwave-infrared (SWIR) quantum dots and a cooled focal-plane array-based SWIR camera to provide readings for detailed, 3D quantitative flow maps of brain vasculature (see article).

Three other articles in this issue illustrate why lasers have been an intrinsic part of medical research and practice since shortly after invention, when a ruby and later an argon laser were used for retinal photocoagulation. In the first article, researchers at Art Photonics (Berlin, Germany) have been investigating how the carbon monoxide (CO) laser could be used for coagulation during surgery (see article). Secondly, researchers at the University of Texas (Austin) have been using a 2 μm thulium fiber laser to demonstrate its potential as an extremely precise surgical tool (see article). And, finally, an article from Coherent engineers explains how multiwavelength, optically pumped semiconductor laser modules are serving applications in flow cytometry and microscopy (see article).

Clearly, the many manifestations of photonics-enabled tools for the life sciences show no sign of diminishing.

Conardmug 2011cConard Holton
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief

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