Pen-sized microscope to efficiently see cancer cells

Washington, Jan 26 (IANS) A hand-held, miniature microscope roughly the size of a pen can allow surgeons to “see” at a cellular level in the operating room and determine where to stop cutting the tumour to kill only cancerous cells and protect healthy cells.

The new technology, developed by mechanical engineers at the University of Washington in collaboration with the Stanford University and the Barrow Neurological Institute, delivers high-quality images at faster speeds than existing devices.

Researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, expect to begin testing it as a cancer-screening tool in clinical settings next year.

“Surgeons don’t have a very good way of knowing when they are done cutting out a tumour,” said senior author Jonathan Liu from University of Washington.

“Being able to zoom and see at the cellular level during the surgery would really help them to accurately differentiate between tumour and normal tissues and improve patient outcomes,” Liu added in a paper published in the journal Biomedical Optics Express.

A miniature microscope with high enough resolution to detect changes at a cellular level could be used in dental or dermatological clinics to better assess which lesions or moles are normal and which ones need to be biopsied.

“The microscope technologies that have been developed over the last couple of decades are expensive and still pretty large, about the size of a hair dryer or a small dental x-ray machine,” said co-author Milind Rajadhyaksha at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City.

The miniature microscope uses an innovative approach called “dual-axis confocal microscopy” to illuminate and more clearly see through opaque tissue.

It can capture details up to a half mm beneath the tissue surface, where some types of cancerous cells originate.

The microscope also employs a technique called line scanning to speed up the image-collection process.

Imaging speed is particularly important for a hand-held device which has to contend with motion jitter from the human using it. If the imaging rate is too slow, the images will be blurry.

The researchers hope that after testing the microscope’s performance as a cancer-screening tool, it can be introduced into surgeries or other clinical procedures within the next two to four years.

Leave a Reply

Please enter your comment!

The opinions, views, and thoughts expressed by the readers and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of or any employee thereof. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the readers. Responsibility for the content of comments belongs to the commenter alone.  

We request the readers to refrain from posting defamatory, inflammatory comments and not indulge in personal attacks. However, it is obligatory on the part of to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments to the concerned authorities upon their request.

Hence we request all our readers to help us to delete comments that do not follow these guidelines by informing us at Lets work together to keep the comments clean and worthful, thereby make a difference in the community.

Please enter your name here