Mantis shrimp-inspired camera provides second opinion during
Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have returned their gaze to the natural world to develop a camera inspired by the mantis shrimp that can visualize cancer cells during surgery.

Cancer affects one in three people worldwide. Surgery remains the primary curative option for localized cancers, but good prognoses require complete removal of primary tumors and timely recognition of metastases. To expand surgical capabilities and enhance patient outcomes, investigators developed a six-channel color/near-infrared image sensor inspired by the mantis shrimp visual system that enabled near-infrared fluorescence image guidance during surgery.

The mantis shrimp’s unique eye, which maximizes the number of photons contributing to and the amount of information contained in each glimpse of its surroundings, is recapitulated in the single-chip imaging system that integrates arrays of vertically stacked silicon photodetectors and pixelated spectral filters. To provide information about tumor location unavailable from a single instrument, they tuned three color channels to permit an intuitive perspective of the surgical procedure and three near-infrared channels to permit multifunctional imaging of optical probes highlighting cancerous tissue.

In nude athymic mice bearing human prostate tumors, the image sensor-enabled simultaneous detection of two tumor-targeted fluorophores, distinguishing diseased from healthy tissue in an estimated 92% of cases. In the operating room, during surgical resection in 18 patients with breast cancer, the image sensor further enabled sentinel lymph node mapping using clinically approved near-infrared fluorophores.

The flexibility and performance afforded by this simple and compact architecture highlight the benefits of biologically inspired sensors in image-guided surgery.

Science Translational Medicine