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Scientists created a tiny probe, which can see deep inside the brain and measure temperature

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Posted April 19, 2018

Sometimes great inventions are actually quite small. Very small, in this case. Scientists from the University of Adelaide have invented a world-first tiny fibre-optic probe, which is capable of measuring temperature and seeing deep inside the human body. This minute device will have huge implications in treating a number of conditions, including drug-induced overheating of the brain and even cancer.

The tiny probe is only 130 microns in diameter, but can be used for imaging and taking accurate measurements of the temperature of the inside the brain. Image credit: Shannan Muskopf via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This fibre-optic probe is only 130 microns in diameter – about as thin as a strand of human hair. It is really hard to imagine that any sort of device could be that small. However, its minute dimensions mean that this probe can be introduced deep into the body in a minimally invasive way. Doctors can see and record physiological data in real time, while the patient is enduring the minimal amount of discomfort and pain. This tool was specifically invented to help study drug-induced hyperthermia – overheating of the brain.

Certain drugs can cause a huge spike of heat in some regions of the brain. For example, there are well-documented cases when such effect was induced by ecstasy. Hyperthermia can damage some areas in the brain, leaving the person disabled for life. Current treatments and diagnostic techniques are lacking. This tiny probe could help researching new approaches to drug-induced overheating of the brain.

Image credit: University of Adelaide

During experiments scientists were able to accurately introduce the tiny fibre-optic probe into the brain of living organisms. They were able to direct the probe to the target area and to see deep into the brain. Then scientists were able to accurately measure the temperature in the regions affected by hyperthermia. These experiments proved that in the future this probe will be useful tool looking for treatments for hyperthermia and researching the toxicology impacts of drug-taking. This device can also be useful in researching other diseases – it could help optimising thermal treatment of cancers.

Currently the probe can take images and measure temperature, but in the future it will be able to measure pH, oxygen saturation and accumulation of fat in arteries. However, these improvements will only be brought with new generations of the probe. On the other hand, it is already very useful as if, because it is minimally invasive and very accurate.

Source: University of Adelaide

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