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Infra-red light

Infra-red light creates contrast

Stefan Andersson-Engels.

Better contrast agents, the aim of Tomas Jansson’s research (see article on page 7), are a hot research topic. Professor of Physics Stefan Andersson-Engels is also developing a technique that produces sharper images of the inside of the body. However, where Tomas Jansson uses sound, Stefan Andersson-Engels uses light.

The trick is to expose the body to invisible infra-red light. When the light is absorbed by the contrast agent in the tumour, it produces red light. Healthy tissue without a contrast agent  remains uncoloured.

The contrast agent builds on an international research field, ‘upconverted nanoparticles’. The biophotonics group in Lund was very early in making use of these particles for imaging of tissue. The major advantage is that it is possible to scan parts of the body close to the surface in 3D, whereas the ultrasound alternative has the advantage of being able to reach further into the body.

Even if Tomas Jansson and Stefan Andersson-Engels use different techniques, they have one other thing in common (apart from the fact that they both work with contrast agents): both methods have interested biomedical company Genovis.

“I see that as a good sign. Companies are not generally keen to invest in things they see as a long shot!” says Stefan Andersson-Engels.


Contrast agents are substances that are administered to increase the sharpness (contrast) of images in diagnostic medical imaging. (NE)