UCLA team develops superfast fluorescent camera with Dx benefit

UCLA researchers have come up with a new kind of fluorescent camera for blood diagnostics and brain mapping that's significantly faster than current technology.

Their work could speed fluorescence imaging of everything from blood to brain activity. The journal Nature Photonics published the results of the new high-speed microscopy technique.

Fluorescence imaging, in which target molecules are tagged with a fluorescent label to stand out, is widely used to figure out the molecular composition of a given specimen. But the tagged molecules don't give off much light. As the researchers explain, current technology works very slowly as a result, often capturing images of the fluorescent samples one pixel at a time in order to create a viable picture. Even faster cameras are limited in scope, they said.

The UCLA team's camera, in contrast, reads a row of pixels all at once by encoding the fluorescence from each pixel on a different radio frequency. The advance boosts the imaging rate by about 10 times, the researchers said. Lead author Eric Diebold, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in electrical engineering, equated the advance to the broadcast of different television stations.

"We've figured out a way to encode the image pixels in the frequency domain such that we can use a single-pixel detector as a multi-pixel detector," he said in a statement. "It uses principles similar to the way that many TV channels are carried on a single wire that goes into your house, or how multiple computers can communicate with a single wireless router at the same time. Using that as inspiration, we treated each pixel on the image as a different channel."

With that greater precision and speed, Diebold said the imaging could help detect a rare cancer cell in a blood sample that might otherwise be missed, among other advances.

They even have a name for their new technique. It's called FIRE, which stands for "fluorescence imaging using radiofrequency-tagged emission."

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract