New IR imaging modalities for cancer detection and for intra-cell chemical mapping with a sub-diffraction mid-IR s-SNOM

H. Amrania, L. Drummond, R. C. Coombes, S. Shousha, L. Woodley-Barker, K. Weir, W. Hart, I. Carter and C. C. Phillips

Faraday Discuss (2015)
We present two new modalities for generating chemical maps. Both are mid-IR based and aimed at the biomedical community, but they differ substantially in their technological readiness. The first, so-called “Digistain”, is a technologically mature “locked down” way of acquiring diffraction-limited chemical images of human cancer biopsy tissue. Although it is less flexible than conventional methods of acquiring IR images, this is an intentional, and key, design feature. It allows it to be used, on a routine basis, by clinical personnel themselves. It is in the process of a full clinical evaluation and the philosophy behind the approach is discussed. The second modality is a very new, probe-based “s-SNOM”, which we are developing in conjunction with a new family of tunable “Quantum Cascade Laser” (QCL) diode lasers. Although in its infancy, this instrument can already deliver ultra-detailed chemical images whose spatial resolutions beat the normal diffraction limit by a factor of ∼1000. This is easily enough to generate chemical maps of the insides of single cells for the first time, and a range of new possible scientific applications are explored.