World's first gigapixel camera can help spot skin cancer early


Early detection is essential in successfully treating cancer. In fact, when melanoma, the most fatal skin cancer form and the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths, is spotted early enough, it is almost always curable. By helping spot skin cancer early, the world's first gigapixel camera aims to save lives.

Called the "gigapixel whole-body photographic camera," the camera is basically three dozen cameras rolled into one. Made by research team from Duke University, it provides researchers with enough magnification power to scan and image the whole body right down to the tiniest freckle.

"The camera is designed to find lesions potentially indicating skin cancers on patients at an earlier stage than current skin examination techniques," explains Daniel Marks, co-author for the study.

A commercial camera fitted with wide lenses can be used for capturing whole-body images but it doesn't offer enough resolution that will allow dermatologists to target a particular spot. As such, dermatologists turn to digital dermatoscopy when suspicious lesions have to be examined.

With the gigapixel camera, only one image is needed so examinations will not only be quicker but cheaper as well. Image quality is also not compromised so results are unlikely to be false-positives, eliminating further stress on the patient.

When the gigapixel camera is used, it will capture an image with irregularities. The gigapixel's 34 microcameras come into play by correcting these irregularities, forming a seamless image afterwards. Focus and exposure time may be adjusted for every microcamera to suit the requirements of an examination. Additionally, a preliminary scan of the captured images will yield data that will then clue a dermatologist on which areas will call for further attention.

Researchers admit that the gigapixel camera's resolution is subpar compared to the best dermatoscopes but it is dramatically better than standard photography, expanding areas for imaging that dermatoscopes can only dream of achieving.

Further research has to be done before the gigapixel camera is used on actual patients but researchers have enough preliminary data showing adequate resolution and field of view has been achieved for proper screening for skin disease. However, only a clinical test will surely say how well the gigapixel camera will perform.

Using technology based off the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's multiscale camera design, the "gigapixel whole-body photographic camera" will be presented on Oct. 21 at the Frontiers in Optics, The Optical Society's 98th Annual Meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

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