Cameras to See Through Skin

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is taking part in a five year $10 million program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a new type of camera that peers deep beneath the skin to help diagnose and monitor a wide variety of health conditions.

The NSF research program called “Expeditions in Computing”, includes working with researchers at CMU, and other researchers at Rice, Harvard, MIT, and Cornell University .

This research will combine advanced optics and sophisticated computation to make sense of light that penetrates the skin but scatters off internal tissues and anatomical structures. This camera will enable the noninvasive bio-optical imaging at a cellular scale. This is not possible with present day use of ultrasound, x-rays, and other medical imaging technologies.

The goal for the research is to create miniaturized light-based microscopes for use in wearables, and be able to provide for a point-of-care diagnosis at the bedside or in an ambulance, and in operating rooms.

CMU investigators are going to work with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine to explore possible cardiovascular and critical care applications and researchers are also going to work with physicians at the Allegheny Health Network on skin cancer applications.

Ashutosh Sabharwal, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice and the Principal Investigator on the grant said, “Imagine using a wearable device no larger than a watch that uses sensors to continuously measure white blood cell count and communicates with the oncologist’s office. The patient with a wearable device could then go about their daily life and would only have to go to the hospital if there is a problem.”

Sabharwal adds, “If we succeed with this research, then we can develop a platform technology that will be able to spin off into many products that could be used in the care of nearly one hundred health conditions.”

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