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This laser scanner goes inside blood vessels

Endoscope views
Scanning fiber angioscopic images with red reflectance for structural images (left) and blue fluorescence for label-free biochemical contrast (right). The images reveal multiple atherosclerotic lesions with very low fluorescence in the blue spectrum in comparison to the surrounding healthy artery. (University of Michigan Medicine Photos)

Researchers have found a way to use a laser-scanning mini-camera to map the inner working of blood vessels and spot the early signs of stroke risk.

The proof-of-concept demonstrations, conducted using carotid arteries that were harvested during autopsies, are described today in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The technique takes advantage of an instrument known as a scanning fiber endoscope, or SFE, which was invented by Eric Seibel, a mechanical engineering research professor at the University of Washington.

Seibel designed the endoscope to be used in early cancer detection, but medical researchers at the University of Michigan repurposed the device to look for signs of atherosclerosis inside the harvested arteries. The researchers also conducted experiments using live rabbits.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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