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PLoS One. 2010 Jun 23;5(6):e11218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011218.

A fiber-optic fluorescence microscope using a consumer-grade digital camera for in vivo cellular imaging.

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Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, Houston, Texas, United States of America.



Early detection is an essential component of cancer management. Unfortunately, visual examination can often be unreliable, and many settings lack the financial capital and infrastructure to operate PET, CT, and MRI systems. Moreover, the infrastructure and expense associated with surgical biopsy and microscopy are a challenge to establishing cancer screening/early detection programs in low-resource settings. Improvements in performance and declining costs have led to the availability of optoelectronic components, which can be used to develop low-cost diagnostic imaging devices for use at the point-of-care. Here, we demonstrate a fiber-optic fluorescence microscope using a consumer-grade camera for in vivo cellular imaging.


The fiber-optic fluorescence microscope includes an LED light, an objective lens, a fiber-optic bundle, and a consumer-grade digital camera. The system was used to image an oral cancer cell line labeled with 0.01% proflavine. A human tissue specimen was imaged following surgical resection, enabling dysplastic and cancerous regions to be evaluated. The oral mucosa of a healthy human subject was imaged in vivo, following topical application of 0.01% proflavine.


The fiber-optic microscope resolved individual nuclei in all specimens and tissues imaged. This capability allowed qualitative and quantitative differences between normal and precancerous or cancerous tissues to be identified. The optical efficiency of the system permitted imaging of the human oral mucosa in real time.


Our results indicate this device as a useful tool to assist in the identification of early neoplastic changes in epithelial tissues. This portable, inexpensive unit may be particularly appropriate for use at the point-of-care in low-resource settings.

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