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Super-resolution imaging to transform diagnostic microscopy

Wed 27 Jan 2016

Researchers have developed a new technique to enhance the quality of digital microscopy images, and improve the resulting disease diagnoses.

The team at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA hope the new development will prove a significant step for the production of digital imagery in microscopy, which until now has often resulted in blurry and pixilated images.

The new method, known as wavelength scanning pixel super-resolution, involves a device which is able to capture a stack of digital images of the same sample at different wavelengths of light. The team then applies an algorithm to divide the pixels in each of the captured images into smaller pixels. This technique produces a much higher-resolution digital image of the examined specimen.

The specimens used in the experiments were blood samples and Papanicolaou tests, used to screen for cervical cancer.

The research was led by Aydogan Ozcan, an electrical engineering and bioengineering professor at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. The study, Pixel super-resolution using wavelength scanning, was published last month in the journal Light: Science and Applications.

slides_b972ff8d-90e7-40d6-a559-059709b9b38b-prv“These results mean we can see and inspect large samples with finer details at the sub-micron level,” explained Ozcan. “We have applied this method to lens-based conventional microscopes, as well as our lensless on-chip microscopy systems that create microscopic images using holograms, and it works across all these platforms.”

While the advantages of the development are expected to be wide-ranging in the microscopy field, it will be particularly helpful in pathology where the rapid microscopic imaging of large numbers of tissue and blood smears is key in diagnosing diseases like cancer.

Ozcan noted that the wavelength scanning process works both for colourless and stained samples. The equipment is also able to fit on a standard desktop, so is a space-convenient option for doctors and scientists even in resource-limited clinics.

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