UCLA engineers have developed the world’s fastest camera and they are using it to detect isolated cancer cells. The optical microscope (a microscope with a digital camera fitted) is being used to hunt for circulating cancer tumor cells, of which “…there are only a handful…among a billion healthy cells”, among other rare cell types.
UCLA’s Bahram Jalali explains:
“To catch these elusive cells, the camera must be able to capture and digitally process millions of images continuously at a very high frame rate. Conventional CCD and CMOS cameras are not fast and sensitive enough. It takes time to read the data from the array of pixels, and they become less sensitive to light at high speed.”
In order to overcome the limitations of conventional cameras the team involved in the development of UCLA’s optical microscope created “…a high-throughput flow-through optical microscope with the ability to detect rare cells with sensitivity of one part per million in real time.” This technology is built on the photonic time-stretch camera technology developed in 2009 by UCLA which permits the camera to capture 6 million frames per second.
The camera has been shown to identify rare breast cancer cells in blood, with a false positive rate of one cell in a million, and UCLA program manager in electrical engineering and bioengineering Keisuke Goda has confirmed that the device is now undergoing clinical trials.
“To further validate the clinical utility of the technology, we are currently performing clinical tests in collaboration with clinicians. The technology is also potentially useful for urine analysis, water quality monitoring and related applications.”