Anyone who’s had a colonoscopy will tell you, the smaller the probe the better.
With that in mind, researchers at RMIT University have pioneered a medical imaging technique capable of producing 3D pictures via optical fibres thin as a human hair.
If you’re connected to the NBN or a pay TV, chances are you’re enjoying the benefits of optical fibre already.
But the tiny filaments of light-transmitting glass or plastic also have other applications, including microendoscopy, where a camera or probe is inserted into the body to transmit microscopic images.
Microendoscopy allows doctors to examine tissue in hard-to-reach areas without opening an incision.
But current technology can only deliver pictures in two dimensions.
RMIT’s Anthony Orth says rendering them in 3D will give a clearer view of the body’s obscure inner reaches, similar to the experience of watching a 3D movie.
“Stereo vision is the natural format for human vision, where we look at an object from two different viewpoints and process these in our brains to perceive depth,” Dr Orth says.
“We’ve shown it’s possible to do something similar with the thousands of tiny optical fibres in a microendoscope.”
3D photography normally requires a bulky system to capture the different viewpoints. These are then combined to produce a single image.
But the RMIT team discovered optical fibres naturally capture light from multiple perspectives already.
They developed a mathematical system to process the information and produce high-quality, 3D images at the other end.
It is hoped these clearer pictures will increase surgical precision and improve the diagnosis of diseases like cancer without the need to remove tissue samples for biopsy.
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