Pigmented bacteria can be used in a cancer imaging technique that combines light and sound!
Microbe of the episode
Microbe of the episode: Streptomyces bellus
One promising imaging technology is called multispectral optoacoustic imaging, or MSOT. This uses pulses of light to create vibrations as pigments in tissues absorb the light and undergo thermal expansion; these vibrations are then detected by ultrasound technology. This approach allows good resolution and depth of imaging without large equipment like MRI machines, but the best results require adding pigments into the body.
In this study, scientists showed that the photosynthetic pigments of purple non-sulfur bacteria can be useful in this optoacoustic imaging, providing a somewhat long-term, nontoxic approach. It proved especially interesting when they discovered that the wavelength spectrum changing over time was an indication of macrophage activity in the tumors.