Researchers from the University of Buffalo and the University Health Network of Toronto recently developed a contrast agent called Porshe Microbubbles which offers better visibility in (PAT). A relatively new imaging technology, PAT is the combination of photoacoustic (PA) and ultrasound imaging, bringing together their advantages; high contrast visibility and deep penetration.
Photoacoustic was introduced by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880 and was later applied to biomedical imaging and ultrasound in the 1990′s. Although PAT technology is still in its infancy, initial applications have already been identified in monitoring blood flow, measuring blood oxygen levels and detecting cancer.
In order to achieve the best results possible, researchers were working on a difficulty in the ultrasound component of PAT which prompted the development of Porshe Microbubbles; grainy, low contrast images. Microbubbles offer a solution to this problem by enhancing visibility without affecting the PA technology.
Microbubbles are made of fluorinated gas encapsulated by porphyrin and phospholipid. The result is a high light absorbent agent that enhances the contrast of visual elements and sharpens images. Applied to PAT, the technology enables doctors to view new parameters and better see what occurs in the body in order to treat illnesses.
In blood flow monitoring, PAT uses pulsed laser lights to generate pressure waves. Through these waves, it is possible to measure oxygen levels in the blood which is useful in diagnosing and treating hypoxia and other oxygen related conditions.
Compared to other methods of imaging like MRI or CT, PAT is inexpensive, mobile and does not expose patients to health risks associated with radiation. PAT’s ability to safely detect cancer, particularly breast cancer will greatly increase early detection and survival rates. Conventional imaging detection of breast cancer is done with x-ray which doctors tend to defer since it can exacerbate an existent cancer or cause cancer development.
Professionals believe initial benefits of PAT imaging will include dramatically reducing the time required to assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy and to monitor oxygen dysfunction in the blood. Since the technology is still new, further research will be needed to exhaust all potential medical applications.