Fluorescent dyes enable diseased cells to be identified in a very specific and timely manner. This makes the technology highly beneficial for medical diagnostics. Up until now, however, limited use has been made of this approach, particularly in developing countries, because such imaging systems are large, sensitive and expensive. The compact FluoMi imaging module overcomes these barriers.
The use of fluorescent dyes in medical diagnostics for detecting diseases such as AIDS is currently limited primarily to centralized laboratory use. Carrying out the immunological processes and evaluating the fluorescent dye preparations requires elaborate and expensive infrastructure and specialist technicians. The development of economical biochips has enabled considerable simplification of these immunological processes over the past few years. However, in order to be able to use biochips on patients at the direct “point of care” (POC) – given the poor medical infrastructure in many countries – the development of new analysis systems is essential. More robust and more compact systems are now required that automate the analytical processes, are simpler to operate and can be produced at a greatly reduced cost. Sensovation AG, with the support of Steinbeis Transfer Center Medicinal Biophysics, Heidelberg, has developed just such an econo- mical, miniaturized fluorescence imaging module. The experts of this center were the ideal transfer partners for the project – due to their outstanding skills at the interface of medicine, physics and biology. This gave them the necessary capability to solve the technically complex challenge of miniaturization in close collabo- ration with Sensovation AG.
The microscope module called FluoMi uses a completely novel optical design to display fluorescent imaging of a sample on a specially adapted, high-resolution CCD sensor. FluoMi can be directly embedded within a portable device to form the core of a mobile diagnostic system. Together the two partners developed strategies and concepts that allow for relatively large tolerances of individual components and enable calibration at a systema- tic level to be carried out after the module has been embedded. This is the only way to produce FluoMi within the defi ned budget constraints. The newly developed product has already aroused considerable attention at international conferences and has the potential to become a major economic success for Sensovation AG due to the broad range of possible applications in medicine, food technology and hazardous material imaging.
Prof. Dr. Rainer H.A. Fink, Dr. Martin Vogel, Jürgen Blume
Steinbeis Transfer Center Medicinal Biophysics (Heidelberg)