Dr Shikui Yao
Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.

A team of researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed the world’s tiniest endoscope. 

Lead researcher Dr Jiawen Li, an associate investigator and Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at CNBP at The University of Adelaide, says that ultimately, the endoscope will help clinicians better understand the causes and progression of various diseases.

At the heart of the endoscope is a tiny 3D-printed lens on the end of an optical fibre, as thin as a single human hair. With a protective catheter sheath, the entire device is less than half a millimetre wide. This means it can safely fit inside a narrow artery.

"We used the technology to take 3D scans of atherosclerotic plaques inside blood vessel walls," Dr Li says. "These are a common cause of heart attacks."

The images Dr Li and the team received were of a higher quality than what is possible from the fibre-optic tools currently used for preclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease diagnostics. And because the tool is so small, it’s less likely to cause any damage to the body.

In Australia, 157 people are hospitalised every day due to heart attacks. Around one in 10 of these people are likely to be readmitted for a second one within a year. The endoscope can help detect and prevent these secondary heart attacks by assessing plaque in the arteries after the initial attack. The CNBP team of engineers, physicists, cardiologists and biologists also hope the technology can help a wider range of patients by detecting other conditions such as lung cancer.

Photo credit: 

Image: Jiawen Li holding a 3D printed probe. Credit: Dr Shikui Yao.