The flexible fiber probe for minimally invasive examinations

Jena Research Team develops new imaing fiber endoskope for tissue diagnostics

Novel probe combines three imaging techniques at once​
The flexible fiber probe for minimally invasive examinations
Image: Sven Döring/Leibniz-IPHT
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Published: 14 October 2021, 01:15 | By: Lavinia Meier-Ewert, translation by Luzie Rogulis

Current methods require surgical intervention to determine with certainty whether a tumor has in fact been removed in its entirety after a cancer operation. An interdisciplinary research team in Jena has now presented a novel fiber endoscope, with which tumor edges could be made visible directly inside the body during the surgery in the future. The probe is based on a specially developed multimodal fiber and provides tissue images that contain both morphological and biochemical information. The researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies, and the company GRINTECH published their results in the Light: Science & Applications.

It may take several days for patients to receive assurance as to whether their cancer operation has been successful. It is only through the subsequent histopathological examination of a biopsy, that one can say with certainty if the whole tumor has actually been removed. The fiber endoscope developed by the Jena research team, however, introduces the possibility of achieving a diagnosis in real time. By combining three imaging techniques at once, the probe provides high-resolution tissue images from inside the body. They contain both morphological and biochemical information. 

Diagnosis in real time instead of after several days 

"The endoscope offers the potential to quickly and reliably distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue in vivo – that is, through a minimally invasive examination, in which the probe attaches directly to the suspicious tissue," explains ACP co-director Prof. Jürgen Popp, head of the Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT) and director of the University Institute for Physical Chemistry in Jena, under whose direction the novel probe was researched. 

Flexible probe for minimally invasive examinations 

For this purpose, the fiber technology team developed a special micro structured optical fiber. This, in combination with an intelligent and ultra-compact optical concept provided by the company GRINTECH, leads to a completely fiber-based endoscopic structure for multimodal nonlinear endoscopy. It takes tissue images, such as are currently taken by the commercially available, bulky laser scanning microscope, while being comparatively inexpensive to produce. "In the future, the novel multimodal imaging probe could thus open up new possibilities for label-free tissue diagnostics in surgery and endoscopy – for example, to clearly detect tumor edges during surgery," says Jürgen Popp, looking ahead. This would not only help to improve the patients’ chances of recovery, but also to save considerable healthcare costs by contributing to avoid expensive and stressful follow-up treatments. Currently, with tumors in the head and neck area for example, cancer cells are later found after almost every 10th operation. 

Success story from the optics location, Jena 

The technological realization of the patented imaging fiber probe is the result of the longstanding cooperation between the Jena researchers and the micro-optics specialist GRINTECH. "Our know-how in the field of endomicroscopic probes, which we have now also extended to the use of miniaturized scanners with appropriate control and image processing software, and the competence of Leibniz-IPHT in the development of micro structured glass fibers have ideally complemented each other," says Dr. Bernhard Messerschmidt from GRINTECH, which was founded towards the end of 1999 as a spin-off of the Jena Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering. "In this respect, this joint development also presents the success story of the optics and photonics location Jena – both in regards to its close network of science and industry, as well as to our cooperation in highly efficient interdisciplinary teams here," adds Jürgen Popp. 

Award-winning method for rapid cancer diagnosis 

The joint development of the endoscopy probe for biomedical imaging was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from 2017 to 2019 as part of the regional growth core "Tailored Optical Fibers — TOF". The optical fast-track method for multimodal tissue diagnostics with AI-supported evaluation is based on a method developed by a team from Leibniz-IPHT, the Friedrich Schiller University, and the University Hospital Jena, as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF). For this optical approach to rapid cancer diagnostics, the interdisciplinary Jena team was awarded the renowned Kaiser Friedrich Research Prize in 2018. The underlying research project, entitled "CDIS Jena — Cancer Diagnostics Imaging Solution Jena", was funded by the BMBF, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the Thuringian Ministry of Economics, Science, and Digital Society (TMWWDG). 


Original Publication: Ekaterina Pshenay-Severin, Hyeonsoo Bae, Karl Reichwald, Gregor Matz, Jörg Bierlich, Jens Kobelke, Adrian Lorenz, Anka Schwuchow, Tobias Meyer-Zedler, Michael Schmitt, Bernhard Messerschmidt, Juergen Popp: Multimodal nonlinear endomicroscopic imaging probe using a double-core double-clad fiber and focus-combining micro-optical concept, Light: Science & Applications (2021) 10:207

Chair of Physical Chemistry II (Material- and Biophotonics)
Jürgen Popp, Prof. Dr
Helmholtzweg 4
07743 Jena
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