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New Microscopy development in SYDE Helping Surgical Oncologists Visualise Cancer Margins Intraoperatively

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Parsin Haji Reza

Professor Parsin Haji Reza, along with his team at the PhotoMedicine Lab have begun to develop a new form of microscopy called Histological Photoacoustic Remote Sensing (hPARS) microscopy. This revolutionary technology recently received funding from the federal government through a John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI-JELF) grant to continue relevant research and development.

Currently, there are no intraoperative tools for surgical oncologists to visualize cancer margins during tumour resection surgeries. Therefore, most procedures rely on histopathology techniques which may take up to 2 weeks to acquire a diagnosis. Additionally, current histopathology techniques are time-consuming and expensive, requiring skilled lab technicians and clinicians to process tissue samples.  As a consequence, secondary therapies including additional surgeries, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy are commonly administered which can be highly physically and emotionally strenuous for the patient.

This new imaging technique takes advantage of the PARS phenomenon which was discovered and pioneered by Dr. Haji Reza. PARS uses two lasers to produce and detect the photoacoustic effect which allows for visualization of biological structures without dangerous ionizing radiation or needing to inject dyes. PARS devices are capable of imaging materials which absorb light such as blood, DNA, and fats with high specificity from the surrounding tissue. Here, the effect is used to image cell nuclei at a high resolution by taking advantage of the optical absorption of DNA at ultraviolet wavelengths.  As a result, histology-like information can be extracted from tissues in a label-free, non-contact method which does not require tissue processing.

Dr. Haji Reza envisions this form of microscopy to be incorporated into current surgical microscopes to provide a real-time, intraoperative feedback that will allow surgical oncologists to identify surgical margins during operations. Clinicians have predicted that this technology may have a dramatic impact on current histopathology and pathology techniques. Ultimately, the end goal is improving patient treatment methods and outcomes.