Laser endoscope/software combo gives 3-D view of the bladder

Researchers at the University of Washington have created an automated approach to bladder cancer diagnosis using software in combination with an ultrathin endoscope that contains low-power lasers, enabling it to detect newly approved diagnostic cancer-cell markers.

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Researchers at the University of Washington (UW; Seattle, WA) have created an automated approach to bladder cancer diagnosis using software in combination with an ultrathin endoscope that contains low-power lasers, enabling it to detect newly approved diagnostic cancer-cell markers. Seeking to create a less expensive, more comfortable, and more convenient method for doctors and patients alike, the combo pieces the images together from the endoscope’s path to create a full, 3-D panorama of the bladder interior—a procedure that could be done by a nurse or technician, avoiding the need for anesthesia. Resulting images could then be reviewed by a urologist at a later time, even in another location.

The current user interface projects the reconstructed organ onto a spherical ball or onto a flat map. The resulting mosaic matches the images to a single pixel of accuracy—giving urologists "a Google Earth view of the bladder," says co-author Timothy Soper, a UW research scientist in mechanical engineering. Ultimately, the digital display would incorporate all the original frames, so a doctor could zoom in on an area of interest and observe from all angles at the highest resolution. Reviewing the resulting panoramic image would likely require less of the urologist’s time than performing a manual inspection.

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Here, the green ball represents the bladder. The UW scope, which resembles a strand of angel hair pasta, follows a spiraling path to image the whole interior (arrows). The UW software checks that the scope’s path has covered the entire surface of the bladder. (Image courtesy University of Washington)

Dr. Michael Porter, a UW assistant professor of urology, presented the software and the user interface, as well as preliminary results of 3-D panoramas from a commercially available endoscope inserted into a painted glass bulb, a stained pig bladder and a normal human bladder, at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association held last week in Washington, DC.

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A 3-D digital reconstruction of the inside of a stained pig’s bladder. The images were taken using the UW’s ultrathin, flexible endoscope, and stitched together into a mosaic using UW software. A urologist would inspect this 3-D image looking for signs of tumor growth. (Image courtesy University of Washington)

The UW software could be used with any endoscope, though the team sees particular benefit in combining it with its flexible endoscope, which measures 1.5 mm wide. A design that swings a single optical fiber back and forth to scan a color image pixel by pixel makes its tiny size possible. The UW endoscope's tip will contain a steering mechanism that directs the movement of the scope during the internal exam.

UW is awaiting FDA safety clearance to test the scope for human bladder scans and pursuing funding options. The next step will ask urologists to compare their experience of performing a diagnosis from a live video scan of a human bladder with the 3-D digital recreation.

A grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation in the UW’s Department of Bioengineering, and by the UW’s Center for Commercialization, supported this work.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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