Image of the Day: Infrared Tumors

A camera inspired by butterfly eyes allows surgeons to see cancer cells during surgery.

Apr 18, 2018
The Scientist Staff

Real-time imaging of tumors in a mouse after the skin has been removed and all tumors are visible.VIKTOR GRUEV

Taking a page from butterfly eyes, scientists have designed a camera that can view the world in both color and near infrared. Under the near-infrared view, cancer cells labeled with a fluorescent dye are visible to the viewer, and should help clinicians see and remove cancer cells during surgery. The research team reported their findings earlier this month (April 5) in Optica.

“Instead of putting together commercially available optics and sensors to build a camera for image-guided surgery, we looked to nature's visual systems for inspiration," says coauthor Viktor Gruev, an electrical engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a statement. “The morpho butterfly, whose eyes contain nanostructures that sense multispectral information, can acquire both near-infrared and color information simultaneously.” 

M. Garcia et al., “Bio-inspired imager improves sensitivity in near-infrared fluorescence image-guided surgery,” Optica, doi:10.1364/OPTICA.5.000413, 2018.