VisualSonics photoacoustic imaging technology makes headway in cancer research

VisualSonics Inc. (Toronto, ON, Canada) recently launched its Vevo LAZR photoacoustic imaging system, which enables preclinical researchers to visualize structural, molecular and functional attributes of tumors simultaneously. Photoacoustics also allows researchers to see at the molecular level what effect a drug has on cancer cells. Human applications of VisualSonics' technology are also envisioned in the near future.

Photoacoustics combine the sensitivity of optical imaging with the resolution and depth penetration of high-frequency ultrasound, enabling researchers to study cancer in its earliest stages of progression and evaluate  tumor growth. For the first time, researchers will be able to observe tumor biology, measure hypoxia (oxygen levels), evaluate changes in blood flow, and quantify data with unique software solutions in-vivo and in real time. Consequently, this technology provides researchers with never-before-seen insights into the development of effective therapeutics for treating cancer.

The Vevo LAZR uses a laser to shoot pulses of light through the skin into tissue and cells beneath the surface. The absorbed laser energy is then converted into heat, producing an ultrasonic emission, which can be captured and turned into images using a specially adapted high-frequency ultrasonic probe. The key to this novel approach is the wide range of biological materials that absorb the laser energy. Specific tissue components, including oxyhemoglobin, deoxyhemoglobin, melanin and lipids, all absorb light, making it possible to see tiny structures like nuclei from inside a living cell.

The Vevo LAZR system features a co-registration function that will aid in the discovery and assessment of novel drug therapies, enabling researchers to simultaneously superimpose a photoacoustic signal over the ultrasound image, and allowing for the assessment and quantification of oxygen saturation and blood levels in tissues and organs. An automated multispectral imaging algorithm allows researchers to select multiple imaging wavelengths to optimize the visualization of contrast agents, such as nanoparticles and dyes. The company's LZ Series integrated fiber-optic linear array transducers with microbeamforming technology provides high-resolution images in both 2-D and 3-D modes. Applications include lymph node imaging, study of hemoglobin and oxygen saturation, and targeted imaging of tumor biomarkers.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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