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With 20 exhibitors and more than 400 in attendance, there was more than just sunshine in Miami Beach . The gathering was for last month's BIOMED 2004, a biannual conference sponsored by the Optical Society of America, focusing on optical techniques applied to the biomedical field.
?Over the last 10 years, the field has been growing quite nicely as advanced optical methods are developed specifically for biomedical questions,? said David Boas, associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital . ?What we saw this year was a lot more health science and healthcare impact, in terms of the research that's being performed now. Broadly, what was quite exciting about this meeting was the large degree to which physics and engineering optical research has a direct impact on health sciences and clinical questions.?
One of the research topics discussed at BIOMED 2004 was drug discovery and molecular imaging. Drs. David Lester of Pfizer, Inc. ( New York , NY ) and Vasilis Ntziachristos of Harvard/MGN hosted two special sessions on ?Bio-Optics in Molecular Imaging & Drug Discovery.? The two-day event featured a plenary session, a joint session and an industry rollout. ?We had to focus on drug discovery because molecular imaging is becoming a hot topic these days, and optical imaging is pretty much at the center of that,? Boas said.
Boas elaborated on how chemists can inject the compound into the body which fluoresces optically; specific molecules will then be tagged. ?By combining that chemistry with optical imaging techniques, you can monitor in vivo and follow it over time,? he said. ?The pharmaceutical companies are very excited about that because it can save them billions of dollars by giving them more information more quickly about the advocacy of their drugs.?
Another topic discussed at the conference was functional imaging. Some of those related topics included a look at a new non-invasive technology called laser induced photo-acoustic tomography (PAT) that will allow scientists to look at the brain in action, and developments in photonic technology that provide the potential to dramatically improve the prevention, detection and therapy of epithelial cancers.