Modern light microscopy enables imaging of biological structures down to the sub-micrometer range. The samples can thus remain in non-hostile environments – a decisive advantage in the research of processes in living cells, organs and organisms. Non-linear contrasting processes such as multi-photon fluorescence or optical frequency amplification are particularly interesting for biomedical applications because highly contrasting signals can be created without the need for coloring the samples first. Two Steinbeis centers are currently conducting research with these techniques.
The techniques can be used in medical diagnostics, but there is a hitch: The light reaches a maximum depth of only one millimeter and the lens cannot penetrate the tissue under standard design and assembly. As a result, it is impossible to achieve optical imaging in deeper layers of the body. Rod-shaped gradient-index lens systems of up to 0.3 mm in diameter are shedding light on new possibilities. Here the focusing of light is not based on polished, spherical interfaces with discrete beam deflection as in conventional lenses, but on a glass material with a spatially varying refraction index. The light inside the rod lens is continually refracted.
But how effective are these systems in biomedical applications, particularly in the resolution of signal levels? In a direct system comparison – “classic vs. GRIN” – the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Medical Biophysics and at the Steinbeis Research Center for Medical Technology and Biotechnology conducted tests on “second harmonic” imaging in non-colored skin and muscle samples. This procedure is particularly suitable for system tests in non-linear microscopy on account of its physical properties. The result: In the GRIN system, the signal level achieves on average 25%, with only a factor 2 loss through imaging. An excellent result, especially when the form factors of both technologies are compared. The Steinbeis team is sure that the development of minimally invasive endomicroscopy and diagnostics has only just begun.
Axel Wingert | Prof. Dr. Rainer H. A. Fink
Steinbeis Transfer Center for Medical Biophysics (Heidelberg)
Dr. Martin Vogel
Steinbeis Research Center for Medical Technology and Biotechnology (Weinheim)
A number of very successful businesses are located in the Schwarzwald- Baar region in the south of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. To remain successful in the future, they need an innovative and creative workforce. These types of employees, however, are getting increasingly difficult to find and hang on to. Young women offer up a world of potential – if only they could be tempted by jobs in trades, technical/industrial jobs or positions in the natural sciences. The Steinbeis Innovation Center Know-how + Transfer wants to attract more young ladies to these areas.
That’s why it established the “MINT in” project together with the Trade Association Regional Center (Gewerbeverband Oberzentrum) in Villingen- Schwenningen. The project is intended to attract female specialists in the district of Schwarzwald-Baar. The aim of the initiative is to increase the number of female school graduates in the region interested in “MINT”: mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, or technical engineering. They also hope to get more young women interested in learning a trade. The goal is to achieve an increase of 10% by 2014. To inspire girls and young women to take on professions in these areas, they are introduced to trade groups and MINT companies. It gives the girls a chance to discover more about the fields and their personal suitability for MINT professions. At the same time, companies have the opportunity to vet potential talent among the students. In addition, new structures and business concepts, which would be of interest to young female academics and school graduates, are developed for participating companies. This is supported through a mentoring program in the individual companies.
The project is being sponsored within the scope of the national initiative for “Equality for Women in Business”. The program was developed by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) together with the National Association of German Employer Associations (BDA) and the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB). The program is funded by BMAS and the European Social Fund (ESF).