MINERVA: MId- to NEaR infrared spectroscopy for improVed medical diAgnostics
Mid-IR spectroscopy has the potential to open a new chapter in biomedical imaging for early cancer diagnosis followed by improved survival rates due to optimized therapies. Mid-IR spectroscopy is absorption-based and thus provides label-free biochemical information, in particular in the so called “fingerprint region”. In combination with sophisticated automated algorithms, the technology allows to identify even tiny quantities of bio-molecules that can be associated with various diseases. These novel “bio markers” can be retrieved minimally-invasive and prospect essential information for improved marker-free detection and identification of cancer as well as tumor staging.
However, currently the lack of suitable sources, detectors and components still restricts mid-IR technology mainly to material science and academics, based on weak thermal sources, low power lasers or synchrotron research tools. In the MINERVA project, these issues are addressed by the development of a new mid-IR technology platform for the early detection of cancer. This includes in particular an innovative fiber optical brought band mid-IR sources, novel detectors for high resolution spectral imaging and advanced algorithms for automated evaluation of the acquired huge amounts of spectral data.
Within the framework of MINERVA, the BMTZ transfers the novel mid-IR technologies to skin diagnosis as well as to the identification of pathophysiologically altered cells and tissue lesions. This requires standardized cell and tissue sample standards with marker spectra for technology performance testing of the novel optical components and systems and for training of novel approaches for advanced data analysis. The BMTZ focuses on the establishment of standard samples with representative spectral information of human skin and skin cancer cells. The WWU has established cell culture and 3D models, which represent major cellular skin constituents and skin cancer cell types with significant differences in tumorigenicity. Furthermore, sample preparation procedures on mid-IR compatible substrates are developed that allow long-term storage without significant losses in the quality of the spectral properties. In order to identify suitable marker spectra of human skin, sample sets with different preparations and cell types are analyzed with mid-IR spectroscopy in collaborative work with the consortium partner to retrieve reference data for technology performance testing and for the evaluation novel algorithms for sample analysis and classification.