Butterfly-inspired surgical camera offers potential cancer benefits


Researchers have developed a new surgical camera inspired by the eye of the morpho butterfly, with numerous potential advantages in the treatment of cancer.

The team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St Louis were inspired by the way the morpho butterfly's eye utilises specialised nanostructures to allow it to see multispectral images, including near-infrared.

“A new surgical camera inspired by a butterfly's eye could lead to innovations in the field of cancer treatment.“

By creating a camera with the same kinds of nanostructures, it was possible to develop surgical goggles that can simultaneously register standard colour images and near-infrared signals, without needing to dim the room lights.

This allows surgeons to visually identify infrared signals given off by tumour-binding dyes, making it easier than ever to ensure that all of the cancerous tissue has been removed.

At present, the machines used to provide this kind of visualisation are extremely costly and too large to integrate smoothly into surgery, as well as requiring the lights to be dimmed, making it difficult for the surgeons to see.

Viktor Gruev, a University of Illinois professor of electrical and computer engineering and of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said: "This technology is more sensitive, more accurate, much smaller and lower-cost than currently available instruments that are FDA-approved to detect these signals."

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