Australian engineers have created an advanced microscope using a beefed-up “barcode scanner”, which they believe will help doctors better analyse complex medical conditions such as cancer. Engineers from the Australian National University (ANU) said the microscope can film moving blood cells and neurons in living animals, something which they say will help doctors and scientists to research complex blood disorders, Xinhua news agency reported. Steve Lee, a biomedical optics engineer at the ANU, said the microscope used technology similar to retail barcode scanners and office laser printers. “Scientists can use our new microscope to analyse complex medical problems ranging from blood disorders and cancer to neurological disorders,” Lee said in a statement released on Thursday.
“The microscope can speed up or slow down to capture the slow moving cells in a blood stream or live neurons firing rapidly in the brain, making it much more flexible than other microscopes on the market.” In traditional, “supermarket-style”, barcode scanners, a laser beam bounces off a spinning polygon mirror, allowing it to scan across a sample very quickly. The scanner detects the unique sequence of each barcode to identify each certain product.
Lee said the ANU microscope used a more powerful laser beam as the light source and up to 36 mirror facets to “scan the laser beam across the biological sample in a few thousandths of a second”. “We achieve the same imaging resolution of conventional scanning microscopes on the market but at double the speed,” he said. “The innovation here is that we modernised the polygon mirror microscopy system with advanced electronics and software controls to enable real-time imaging applications, with up to 800 frames per second.”