NPR highlights imaging technology inspired by mantis shrimp (VIDEO)

ECE News

Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS
11/18/2016 10:13:47 AM

Story Highlights

A team of researchers, co-led by Associate Professor Viktor Gruev, has been working an innovative set of imaging technologies inspired by the unique eyesight of mantis shrimp. And NPR has taken notice.

The reef-dwelling crustaceans have hexnocular vision, twelve color receptors, and are able to detect polarized light reflected off of certain surfaces. This incredible vision gives them an advantage and more precision when detecting and capturing prey.

But these mantis shrimp also have polarized surfaces on their own bodies that organize reflected light into a circular pattern, like a helix. As far as researchers can tell, only other mantis shrimp can detect this specific polarization. While this property helps the highly territorial mantis shrimp avoid physical altercations, Gruev and his team are using it as the foundation for new imaging technology that could one day give surgeons the ability to detect cancerous cells earlier.

Mantis shrimp eyes can tell where polarized light is and where it isn't, which helps them detect fish scales, crabs and other prey in seawater. Photo by NPR.
Mantis shrimp eyes can tell where polarized light is and where it isn't, which helps them detect fish scales, crabs and other prey in seawater. Photo by NPR.

Since cancerous cells reflect polarized light differently from non-cancerous cells, the new camera would be able to find cells “hiding in plain sight” before they start to spread. Different forms of cancer reflect different forms of polarized light, but all healthy tissue tends to have a consistent color.

Viktor  Gruev
Viktor Gruev

"It's kind of the cancer moonshot," Gruev told NPR. "Right now, we are still detecting cancer way too late in the game."

Gruev’s camera has been successfully tested on mice, detecting where healthy cells end and cancerous cells began. He hopes that this new technology will one day be a part of a doctor’s standard toolkit in the operating room. Learn more in the original article from NPR.

 

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