The Meet & Match event “Optical Imaging: Future Trends in Medical Applications” – organised by BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH and the Fraunhofer Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology (PAMB) in Mannheim on 9th March 2016 - attracted around 80 participants. Interesting lectures provided in-depth insights into future trends in optical imaging in medical applications.
The meeting was officially opened by Ann-Kristin Fiala of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg and Prof. Dr. Jan Stallkamp of PAMB. Dr. Peter Schouwink from Olympus Surgical Technologies gave the first keynote lecture on ultra HD technology and its increasing application in the field of optical imaging. Working with Sony, Olympus developed 4K imaging, which has a resolution four times higher than full HD. This technology is used for endoscopic examinations or minimally invasive surgery. The level of image detail means that images can be magnified and examined on big screens. Schouwink also presented a number of imaging methods that involved fluorescence – photodynamic diagnosis (PDD) in the blue light spectrum, as well as narrow band imaging and near-infrared fluorescence imaging.
Dr. George Themelis from Leica Microsystems GmbH then provided a historical overview on the development of microscopes as well as today’s requirements for microscopes. In addition to excellent amplification, modern microscopes need to have a high resolution, excellent illumination capacity and stability. Leica is currently working on a new technology involving the integration of 3D visualisation methods into virtual reality glasses for application in operating theatres. The technology has the potential to make surgery more accurate as it improves surgeons’ ability to better discern different structures from each other.
Fluorophores are already widely used as cancer cell markers. Dr. Nikolaos Deliolanis from the Fraunhofer Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology (PAMB) was able to show that fluorophores can also be coupled to molecular carriers such as antibodies and other proteins. Deliolanis presented the opportunities that arise when specific molecular scaffolds are allowed to specifically bind to target structures. He highlighted that the use of fluorophores will increase in importance as they can provide surgeons with important information to which they would otherwise not have access, for example for differentiating different types of tissue (e.g. tumour and healthy tissue) or visualising nerves. Moreover, multispectral imaging, which is the capturing of image data at different wavelengths (fluorescence and colour imaging) and with several sensors, allows important cellular information to be extracted.
Many participants at the event made use of the opportunity to introduce themselves and their company or research institute in the Short Presentations session. Speakers had three to four minutes to highlight the topics they are interested in and with what kind of partners they would like to cooperate. During the following lunch break, people then found it easier to connect up with a potential partner. Intensive discussions were conducted, which is an excellent prerequisite for future networking and cooperation.
After lunch, Dr. Lena Maier-Hein from the German Cancer Research Centre presented some of her recent research. Surgeons who carry out minimally invasive surgery very often face visual challenges due to blood and smoke. She explained how surgeons can circumvent this situation by using a combination of natural markers and fluorophores. The combination of these two types of markers enables them to visualise the operation site in reduced visibility. Maier-Hein presented impressive results, but could not disclose any specific details as her group is currently working on filing a patent application for the method. Surgeons and other medical specialists are therefore awaiting the implementation of the method with great interest.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses so-called photosensitising agents, which accumulate for example in the cancer cells of patients to whom they are applied. When these agents are exposed to light of a specific wavelength, which for example is directed at the tumour cells by way of an optical fibre probe, the cells undergo cytotoxic reactions and the tumour becomes necrotic. Dr. Dirk Hüttenberger of APO-CARE Pharma GmbH presented “Chlorin e6", a so-called second-generation photosensitiser that is already in Phase IIb trials and has achieved impressive results in lung cancer patients.
Dr. Tilman Otto of Heidelberg Engineering GmbH presented SPECTRALIS, an imaging platform used in the field of ophthalmology for visualising retinal structures, glaucomas and cataracts. Fluorophores can also in this case be exceptionally helpful. A SPECTRALIS platform is already on board the International Space Station where it monitors potential changes in astronauts’ eyes. SPECTRALIS is modular and can be adapted to specific work processes in hospitals and medical practices. In this way, technologies like confocal scanning can be easily combined with angiography.
In the subsequent lecture, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Petrich of Roche Diabetes Care GmbH and the University of Heidelberg’s Biophotonics group, presented the results of their current research in the field of mid-infrared microscopy. Petrich and his team are specifically focused on making quantum cascade lasers suitable for medical diagnostics. Mid-infrared spectroscopy thus enables cell layers and transport processes to be observed in vivo and in real time without needing to stain the cells.
Alexander Fink of Metecon GmbH concluded the lectures by providing an insight into the regulatory requirements of automated processes in biotechnology and medical technology R&D. He spoke about many important aspects along the value chain.
During the coffee break and the final get-together, participants had another opportunity to meet, discuss and network. Stimulating questions after the lectures and the extensive discussions during the breaks clearly show the interdisciplinarity of future trends in optical imaging for medical applications. All participants agreed with Themelis when he said: “Technology will change the future”.
The Fraunhofer PAMB at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University was set up by the Baden-Württemberg government and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with the goal to develop new ideas for automation in medicine and biotechnology. The project group is located at CUBEX41 in the heart of the University Hospital in Mannheim. One PAMB sub-group is specifically focused on developing optical biomeasurement technologies for automation in hospitals or production.
Information about future Meet & Match meetings and other BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg events can be obtained from our event announcements or in one of our newsletters. We always welcome suggestions for new topics. If you know of an exciting life sciences topic that would be suitable for our Meet & Match events, please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing us at fiala(at)bio-pro.de.