Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Heat Wave

Technique called photoacoustic tomography reveals blood vessels and their problems without the need for invasion or labelling

27 October 2018

Heat Wave

Although we can see some of the blood vessels under our skin, many are buried deep. Here a technique called photoacoustic tomography reveals the hidden network of arteries and veins in an adult’s palm. Harmless laser pulses turn into tiny puffs of heat after hitting chemicals in the blood –helping to produce these maps of circulation. On the right, artificial colours pick out deeper vessels in red and yellow. These are mostly arteries, with veins lying nearer the surface of the skin in blue and green. After testing on healthy subjects, the technique may be applied to investigate conditions like varicose veins – looking for changes in the bends and twists of vessels – or to spot angiogenesis, the formation of new vessels common in breast cancer; guiding diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Written by John Ankers

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