Diagnosis by light wave

Light possesses the unique ability to reflect from any media, becoming a carrier of information. The National Academy of Sciences’ Physics Institute is using this characteristic to develop a unique medical diagnostic device, used to learn how dangerous diseases are carried in the blood. Moreover, there is no need for personal contact with patients.

By Alexander Denisenko

At the Institute’s Optics and Dispersive Media Laboratory, I was shown the whole process. “Please, bring your finger closer,” requests Vladimir Barun, a senior research officer. I sit at a table with a mysterious black chamber filled with optical conductors, radiating light. After receiving firm guarantees that nothing will happen to my finger, I place it carefully and the computer draws a spectrum across the monitor.

Light from a standard halogen lamp is reflected from my skin, sending data to the spectrophotometer about my blood’s oxygen content, the state of the capillaries in my subdermis and much more. It takes only a few minutes for the physicists to decode the spectrum of the reflected signal. Once the spectrophotometer becomes automated by software, the computer will give exact blood characteristics to doctors, allowing diagnosis within split seconds.

In fact, the device also registers physical characteristics of the skin, which are sometimes difficult for even experienced dermatologists to see. It can pick up age-related skin changes, as well as diseases, and can monitor the effects of various medications and cosmetic preparations. In fact, this allows them to be assessed, protecting domestic customers from dishonest manufacturers, who may make exaggerated claims about the benefits of their skin care products, or even sell potentially dangerous preparations.

“The project is part of the state sci-tech programme,” explains Arkady Ivanov, doctor of physico-mathematical sciences. “Using the results of clinical practice, the spectrophotometer will be improved, taking into account doctors’ wishes. We can then manufacture it en mass. Initially, a small batch can be produced by our institute or by a small innovation enterprise.”

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