With the support of FOM, Dutch scientists have developed two new medical diagnostics instruments. The first instrument can image the epithelial layers of the lungs, intestines and oesophagus from the inside so that cancer can be detected. The second instrument analyses the breath of potential asthma patients or people with cystic fibrosis.
Detecting cancer from the inside
The instrument that makes images of the epithelial layers has been developed by the group of Jan de Boer from VU University Amsterdam. It is based on optical coherence tomography (OCT). This technique can only penetrate to a depth of two millimetres in the body. The researchers therefore had to enter the body. They constructed a minuscule scanner just 1.65 millimetres in diameter. This scanner fits on a catheter and can therefore be inserted into the body. The OCT-catheter can image the epithelial layers of the lungs, intestines and oesophagus. The vast majority of cancers develop in these layers. The researchers have now tested their invention in living pigs and goats. In principle the instrument is ready for use in people.
Breath test for asthma
The measurement instrument that can analyse the breath of potential asthma patients or people with cystic fibrosis is based on laser spectroscopy. It has been developed in Rotterdam and Delft by a team of researchers under the leadership of Johan de Jongste from Erasmus Medical Center and Paul Urbach from Delft University of Technology. It makes a quick and accurate analysis of exhaled air possible. The laser spectroscope can measure the concentration of volatile organic substances in exhaled air. People with asthma or cystic fibrosis have a higher concentration of certain volatile substances in their breath. As the discipline of exhaled air research is so new the researchers had to determine standard values themselves. They therefore investigated eighty children who were either healthy, or suffered from asthma or cystic fibrosis. The researchers have demonstrated that their measurement instrument could indeed show differences. This has opened up the possibility of a diagnostic system for asthma and cystic fibrosis that is based on laser spectroscopy.