The technique of non-invasive molecular imaging of small subjects uses a phenomenon known as Raman spectroscopy and the research team from Stanford University School of Medicine believes it is the first such study of its kind.
Thermal breast image with malignant tumor (on left side)
“This is an entirely new way of imaging living subjects, not based on anything previously used,” lead author Sanjiv Sam Gambhir said on Monday. The new imaging system can show up tumors, using tiny nanoparticles injected into the body to serve as scientific beacons as they attach themselves to different tumor molecules. Raman spectroscopy is a phenomenon first discovered in the 1920s by an Indian doctor and refers to the scattering which happens when light from a source such as a laser is shone on a object.
The technique is largely used in industry and research, and measures the way that the light hits the object and bounces off again. The scattering pattern which is created is known as a spectral fingerprint, and is unique to each kind of molecule, helping to determine a material’s molecular composition and structure.
The team believes this is the first time the technique has been adapted to provide images from inside the human body. The signals emitted by spectroscopy are stronger and last longer than those of other methods, and could provide information about various molecules all at the same time.