Tracking tumours is a tricky business. Scientists have discovered recently, however, that ‘listening’ might make it easier. This image of a melanoma (represented in gold) and blood vessels (in red) growing under mouse skin, was produced by doing just that. Photoacoustic imaging exploits small differences in the chemical make-up of tissues, cells and molecules that mean they absorb light differently. When a laser beam is directed through tissue, absorbed light causes temperature and pressure changes that create sound waves. The symphony of sound waves is detected at the tissue surface and converted into photographic images. Finely tuned images are possible because, unlike light waves, sound waves don’t scatter much and cause little interference. This technique detects differences in tissue chemistry by ‘listening’ out for changes like altered blood flow, which might betray the presence of disease, Clinical trials are now underway to sound out photoacoustic imaging for detecting early-stage cancers.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.