Work Group 1: Medical and Clinical Applications

There is mounting evidence that the onset of numerous and diverse diseases are associated with changes in the mechanical properties of cells and tissue. It can be expected that a means of all-optically and non-invasively probing the viscoelastic properties of live cells and tissue has much potential for future diagnostic applications. To date, it has been shown that Brillouin light scattering (BLS) microspectroscopy – which allows for the extraction of different high-frequency elastic storage and loss moduli  – can be used to distinguish between healthy and various diseased tissue, cells and bodily fluids, with new results being reported regularly. The goal of this Work Group is to further explore the potential of BLS in this regard, identify novel biomedical applications, and bring the technique and the technology closer towards routine clinical and diagnostic applications. More information on the specific goals of this Work Group can also be found in the BioBrillouin Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Some of the current challenges include:

  1. Suppression of elastic scattering and stray light which can be overwhelming in opaque samples, and swamp the Brillouin Scattering peaks. In this regard various tricks may be employed in close collaboration with Work Group 3.
  2. Often it is desirable to perform measurements in vivo and in optically in-accessible regions -such as internal organs/tissue. For this the implementation of endoscopic approaches are being explored. For this one is faced with similar challenges to endoscopic implementation of other label-free optical spectroscopy (such as Raman Scattering Endoscopy), and close collaborations with researchers in these related fields is important.
  3. Significant sample variability is an issue often encountered due also to the small spectral changes being measured.  This is addressed by initiating larger scale parallel studies, which involve several labs housing Brillouin Spectrometers and samples from collaborating medical researchers at local hospitals.
  4. An important aspect will also be to compare the diagnostic ability and accuracy of BLS with existing and currently employed methodologies, and thereby identify samples/conditions where BLS provides a distinctive advantage/strength over other techniques. In this context correlative studies, also within the context of Work Group 4, are pursued.
  5. Though there is ongoing debate regarding the biological significance of the measured elastic moduli in the GHz regime, as our understanding further evolves (which is being pursued also in the context of Work Group 2) it may become more evident which conditions/diseases are likely to exhibit distinct variations in the BLS spectra.
Work Group Leader: 
Dr. Stephen Malin
Karolinska Institute, SE