The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) said its research team developed an ultrathin, flexible endoscope that is thinner than a needle.
The research team, led by Choi Won-shik at the Center for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics at IBS and Professor Choi Young-woon of bioengineering at Korea University, said they were able to obtain 3D holographic images of a biological structure smaller than that of bacteria using this endoscope.
IBS noted that the ultrathin endoscope raises the possibility of early diagnosis of diseases with a minimal incision to reach the lung, capillaries, the brain, and the nervous system that used to be difficult to access with conventional endoscopes.
The research team used a bare fiber bundle as thin as the 200-μm diameter to design a lensless holographic imaging configuration and selectively detected weak reflections from biological tissues, according to their paper.
This was a “critical step” for obtaining label-free free endoscopic reflectance imaging, the research team said.
The diameter of the endoscope is 350 μm, thinner than that of a needle with 500 μm.
The latest endoscope is capable of providing microscopic-level high-resolution imaging, which cannot be done with a conventional fiber optic bundle endoscope.
The research team said they demonstrated endoscopic reflectance imaging of unstained villi of a rat intestine that are completely invisible to conventional endoscopes.
“The proposed endoscope will expedite a more accurate and earlier diagnosis than before with minimal complications,” the research team said.
The study was published in the Aug. 2 online issue of Nature Communications.