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Lightly Scrambled

Improving endoscopy resolution using inspiration from astronomy

23 July 2021

Lightly Scrambled

Light carries pictures – firing chemical reactions at the backs of our eyes, or along optical fibres from inside the body, revolutionising surgery. Aiming to improve the resolution of endoscopes, here a team of physicists experiment with thinner fibres – comparing patterns of light that emerge after blurring and bending along the fibre, they aim to reassemble a 'memory' of the original picture. But there’s a problem – the fibres have to move, twist and turn to peek inside tissues, often scrambling the light into beautiful, but confusing patterns like these. Undefeated, the scientists take inspiration from astronomy, where guiding stars are used as reference points to orientate light from distant galaxies. Bright fluorescent particles on the tip of fibres in new endoscopes may help in a similar way, unscrambling detailed pictures of individual cells, and ultimately saving lives.

Written by John Ankers

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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.

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