A team of researchers from Northwestern University has developed a new tool named Spectral contrast optical coherence tomography angiography (SC-OCTA). This tool gives an insight into blood flow through blood vessels by which doctors can view the central portion of the human circulatory system.
SC-OCTA uses a 3D-imaging technique that can censor even the slightest changes in a capillary organization for early diagnosis of disease. The research paper was published on 23 January 2019 in a journal Science and Application.
A human body consists of 40 billion (4000 crores) capillaries which deliver the nutrients and oxygen to the entire body.
SC-OCTA uses light waves instead of sound waves. It connects with spectroscopy, which detects various light wavelengths, or color spectra with conventional optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Much like radar, OCT identifies that particular tissue and then spectroscopy characterizes it. One of the best features of SC-OCTA is that it does not rely on injected dyes for contrast or harmful radiation.
Compared to ultrasound that can only snap when the blood is flowing or completely still, this device can take a clear picture of stagnant blood or moving organs, for instance, beating of a heart.
Vadim Backman, a biomedical engineer, says, “There has been a progressive push to image smaller and smaller blood vessels and provide more comprehensive, functional information. Now we can see even the smallest capillaries and measure blood flows, oxygenation, and metabolic rate.”
Additionally, he commented, “You can have great blood flow through arteries and still have absolutely no blood sending oxygen to tissues if you don’t have the right microvasculature. Also, it can measure blood flowing regardless of how fast it goes, so motion is not a problem,”.
James Winkelmann, a graduate student in Backman’s laboratory and the study’s first author said, “SC-OCTA is a valuable diagnostic tool, we can now detect alterations to a capillary organization, which is evident in a variety of conditions ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Detecting these diseases earlier has the potential to save lives.”
Winkelmann claims that SC-OCTA’s unique ability to image non-flowing blood could also become a valuable tool for the booming field of organoids, which studies how organs develop and respond to disease.
Conventionally, Doppler ultrasound is the one that uses high-frequency sound waves to measure blood flow, it perceives what’s inside the veins and arteries.
Scrutinizing the capillaries had been a difficult task for the researcher or physicians because of its microscopic size. The size of the capillary is mere 5-10 microns in diameter. However, capillaries are responsible for distributing oxygen to every tissue and organs while shutting down carbon dioxide away.
SC-OCTA tackles down the moment of microvasculature, which was not possible before, hence, it decreases the case of heart failures due to inadequate knowledge microvasculature.
With the advancement of the technology, SC-OCTA can put an end to the endoscopic problem. This tool can capture the image of organs up-close. The only limitation is that it cannot image deeper than 1 millimeter, while ultrasound can see through several centimeters below the surface.