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Non-invasive biopsy developed for skin cancer

04 Jan 2016  | R. Colin Johnson

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Apollo Medical Optics Inc. has made remarkable headway in skin cancer detection by developing an innovative optical scanner that uses a single-crystal sapphire and yttrium aluminium garnet crystalline fibres, surrounded by glass and a flexible polymer cladding, to look-through the skin and image suspicious skin anomalies non-invasively, instead of taking a skin sample and risk releasing malignant cancer cells into the bloodstream.

The current prototype, using single-crystal sapphire at its core, is being integrated into a desktop unit that physicians can use in the office to identify skin cancer in a matter of minutes, determine its size and if small enough possibly even treating it (by excision) the very same day.

"We are hoping to reverse the escalating costs of treating cancer with non-invasive imagers of living tissues, in vivo, with a very high resolution, allowing doctors of make see-and-treat decisions without the expense of in vitro testing with biopsies," said Sheng-Lung Huang, CTO at Apollo Medical Optics. Huang invented the single-crystal scanning technique at his post as a professor at the National Taiwan University (NTU).

Apollo Medical Electronics recently landed raised $3.43 million in a series A funding, after licensing the technology from NTU for $1 million plus royalties, according to COO David Ma. He has lined up a service deal with the Unilever that has offices and personal worldwide and the corporate mission of helping more than one billion people worldwide to take action that improves their health and well-being by 2020.

Non-invasive OCT machine

(Above) Allen Lin, CEO, demonstrates the first complete prototype of the Apollo Medical Optics desktop non-invasive coherence tomography (OCT) machine. (SOURCE: Apollo Medical, used with permission)

"This is only the beginning of a transformation of medical dependency on large expensive diagnostic tools, such a magnetic resonance imagers [MRIs], to small portable diagnostic tools that are not only more affordable, but which can be used in remote locations which are not serviced well with modern medical treatments today," Ma stated.

Unclad yttrium aluminium garnet crystalline cores

Unclad yttrium aluminium garnet crystalline cores for optical probing beneath the skin. (SOURCE: NTU)

The key to the technique is its single-cell resolution, which enables them to be easily identified as normal, benign or malignant, using the tiny single-crystal sapphire fibre core. Other single-crystal cores are also being explored-such as yttrium aluminium garnet, to enhance resolution further for use in other affordable non-invasive desktop optical diagnostic tools for doctors.

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