Stanford dye opens window into body

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Researchers at Stanford have made a breakthrough that could ultimately allow doctors to peer inside your body without imaging machines like MRI or CT scanners.

"Now you can use infrared light to visualize what's going on in the body," says Stanford professor Hognjie Dai, Ph.D.

Dai and his team have been working for three years to come up with a glowing dye that can produce light similar to infrared, and still be safe in the bloodstream. When they found the molecule they wanted, the initial results were, well, enlightening.

"The first time we injected we actually saw the bladder light up like a light bulb, so that's was the moment we realized, hey, we got something here," says researcher Alexander Antaris.

The images produced with the help of a laser assisted camera have been able home in on area's deep in the body in animal models. They believe that capability could someday lead to ultra-fast diagnosis of serious injuries in humans.

"See if there's possibility of stroke or if the blood flow is effected by traumatic brain injury," says Dai.

They believe the system could also provide a powerful tool to highlight tumors during cancer surgery, which is currently done on a limited basis with fluorescent dye. And while human testing could still be several years off, their early data is already shining a light on a new way of looking at the human body.

One important note. The Stanford team says their infrared dye is designed to be flushed out by the body in less than 24 hours. Making it less likely to cause side effects.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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