New technology may prove useful in imaging the inner ear

Synchrotron light

Harvard researchers working in Canada have conducted a study finding that a specific type of light called synchrotron light could produce high-quality images enabling researchers to distinguish between damaged and healthy nerve fibers and sensory cells, reports the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

The researchers are based at the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s national synchrotron light source facility, located at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Synchrotron light, which is sometimes called synchrotron radiation, is electromagnetic radiation that is emitted when charged particles moving at nearly the speed of light are forced to change direction under the action of a magnetic field.

“If we’re able to achieve this level of resolution with X-ray imaging, going forward, because X-ray imaging is already so widely used clinically, this could be really quickly translated to the clinic,” Janani Iyer told the StarPhoenix. She is a PhD candidate in the Harvard-MIT speech and hearing bioscience and technology program, and is also the lead researcher and first author on the study. This area of research is important because sensorineural hearing loss is still relatively poorly understood at the pathophysiological level.

More work naturally needs to be done before the technique is ready for use in humans. At present, the radiation levels of synchrotron light are far too high to be safe in clinical use. Iyer said that new innovations in the physics behind the novel imaging technique are also needed to move forward.

Source: Saskatoon StarPhoenix