Quantum Leap

An Indian researcher has made affordable cancer detection possible using tech

India needs more researchers like Kedar Khare who can work on all aspects of science.

 |  Quantum Leap  |  3-minute read |   31-01-2017
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Investing in fundamental scientific research is necessary if India wants to make a mark in technology development and enter high technology markets. The work of Kedar Khare, a young assistant professor of physics at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, is testimony.

Khare returned to India five years ago after having spent more than a decade in American universities and the industry there to join IIT-D. And, within five years, he has developed an imaging technology that can have wide-ranging applications including cancer detection. The technology has been patented and Khare is on his way to get it to the market through an Indian company later this year.

Khare’s work is related to Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM) that uses the interference of light to record information about an object as a hologram, which is processed to construct a viewable image. Though commercial DHM products are available, Khare’s approach was different.

“I investigated the basic question — what is the limit to information that one can recover from a single interference fringe pattern? To answer this, we developed a new mathematical framework that enabled much higher resolution, and which could beat accuracy levels in the measurement of phase. Since interference is fundamental to a lot of optics, we realised that this idea could be applied to multiple systems,” Khare says.

researchbd_013117122756.jpg Investing in fundamental scientific research is necessary if India wants to make a mark in technology development.

It was this basic discovery that Khare applied to DHM to make it more efficient and advanced. The team is currently working with a Kochi-based firm, Holmarc Opto-Mechatronics, to roll out prototypes for further testing and design improvements. While the technology undergoes pangs of commercialisation, it has been field-tested in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

“We have demonstrated, using patient samples, that DHM imaging can be used for screening and diagnosis of cervical cancer from pap smear slides,” pointed out Sarita Ahlawat, who is working on the applications of DHM with Khare.

The present DHM systems can at best be used to study bulk properties of cells such as cell volume, owing to their limited resolution capability. The new system has higher resolution and can offer more detailed structural information in 3D images of cancerous and normal cells. It can even obtain an image of completely transparent cells in their most natural form.

“The 3D morphological information that our DHM provides is not available with most standard microscopes, and so can also have many diagnostic applications in classifying normal and diseased cells,” according to Khare. The next challenge will be to develop more applications and make users aware because the use of DHM in medical diagnosis is not known.

The system that Khare has developed could cost up to Rs 15 lakh, which is affordable for research institutes and labs. We need more researchers like Khare who can work on all the aspects of science — discovery, technology development, commercialisation and application.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: India needs to celebrate its scientists with glitz and glamour

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Dinesh C Sharma Dinesh C Sharma @dineshcsharma

Journalist, columnist and author based in New Delhi.

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