Optoacoustic device project aims to transform skin cancer diagnosis

A European project is developing an optoacoustic device that could detect skin cancer and other diseases more accurately.

A new project dubbed INNODERM (Innovative Dermatology Healthcare based on Label-Free Spectral Optoacoustic Mesoscopy) is working to develop an optoacoustic device that could be capable of detecting skin cancer and other diseases more accurately, eliminating the need for unnecessary and invasive biopsies.

Related: Photoacoustic imaging progresses toward medical diagnostics

Traditionally, skin diseases are diagnosed visually by a physician using the naked eye or a magnifying glass and personal experience to make a decision. Invasive, uncomfortable, and potentially damaging procedures such as biopsies are often performed to confirm or exclude the presence of disease. This new breakthrough would give physicians an accurate and reliable way to objectively identify serious skin diseases.

The method uses optoacoustics, which involves sending light waves of different wavelengths into the skin and detecting ultrasound waves generated within tissue in response to light absorption to build up an image of the skin tissue and specific molecules therein.

The prototype can visualize at depths up to 5 mm under the skin and measures 4 × 4 × 7 cm—it can be placed on the skin to generate a high-resolution image in less than a minute. Being portable and of small form factor means that it could be used on expeditions or in remote areas of the world, where a young doctor with little experience can make accurate, objective diagnoses. The device, explains Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos, INNODERM Coordinator and Chair for Biological Imaging at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), would enable seeing blood vessels, skin oxygenation, and potentially several novel pathophysiological features, which are an integral area in the development of diseases.

INNODERM combines the expertise of world-class engineers, scientists, and clinicians in a consortium comprising five partners from four European countries. The project has been awarded a grant of €3.8 million ($4.25 million) from Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for research and innovation under the Photonics21 Public Private Partnership.

For more information, please visit http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en.

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