‘A powerful tool’“This is the first example of a low-cost, portable bioluminescence imaging tool that can be used in large non-transgenic animals, such as dogs,” said Elena Goun, the team’s leader and an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri. “The mobility and cost-effectiveness of this technology also make it a powerful tool for use in many areas of preclinical research, clinical research, and diagnostics”. So, how exactly does it work? A firefly lights up when oxygen reacts with an enzyme called luciferase, causing the tip of its abdomen to emit “cool light” energy as opposed to heat.
This is a way we can monitor, in a minimally invasive way, a patient’s physiological response to whatever treatment is administered to him or her.
A portable light detector roughly 10 millimetres wide – smaller than the diameter of a penny – is then placed on the surface of the body near the inserted device and measures the intensity of the light.
Depending on the levels of light being produced, doctors are able to determine how healthy the organ is.
Is this the end of invasive tests?
Ultimately, having a device that can definitively tell whether a treatment is working to repair an organ or not could have much wider implications for patient care by ending uncomfortable and invasive tests.
“This is a way we can monitor, in a minimally invasive way, a patient’s physiological response to whatever treatment is administered to him or her,” said Jeffrey Bryan, director of the Comparative Oncology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the University of Missouri and a co-author of the study.
“Right now, most of the time we are looking for responses to treatment by asking the patient how they feel and then doing big, invasive, expensive tests to see if the treatment is working.
“Sometimes, that requires multiple procedures. But, if we can monitor for the desired effect in a minimally invasive manner and continue monitoring the progress over a long time period with this technology, that would probably reduce the need for more invasive testing”.