The system both pinpoints the exact location of a tumor and measures its depth. (Credit: EPFL)

A system can, for the first time, both pinpoint the exact location of a tumor and measure its depth. Their method involves projecting red light onto an area of diseased tissue with a laser while the high-tech camera simultaneously takes a picture of the area.

When the red-light particles reach a tumor, they behave slightly differently from when they pass through healthy tissue. More specifically, it takes them longer to return to the point they were sent from. And it’s this time differential that gives scientists the information they need to reconstruct the tumor.

The delay is less than a nanosecond, but it’s enough to be able to generate a 2D or 3D image. The new system can accurately identify a tumor’s shape, including its thickness, and locate it within a patient’s body. The time lag is due to the fact that when red light comes into contact with a tumor, it loses some of its energy.

The deeper into a tumor the light travels, the more time it will take to return, which allows researchers to construct an image in three dimensions. The images generated by the system will let them make sure they’ve removed all the cancerous tissue and that no little pieces remain.

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