Publication of First Comprehensive Book on Biophotonics Marks a New Era for the Emerging Science

Book establishes a common "language" of biophotonics

Release Date: February 19, 2003

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Today's most exciting science is being done at the interfaces of established disciplines, but sometimes the difficulties of communicating across those disciplines thwarts the collaborations that are so crucial to success in these new fields.

Biophotonics, the emerging research area that focuses on the ways that biological matter interacts with light, is a case in point, requiring sustained collaborations between biologists, engineers, chemists, physicists and medical researchers.

The publication of "Introduction to Biophotonics" (John Wiley & Sons, March 2003), by Paras Prasad, Ph.D., provides researchers from a broad range of backgrounds with one, user-friendly foundation for advancing the science of biophotonics.

Prasad, one of the earliest pioneers in the field, is known for his work developing novel photonic materials with applications ranging from information storage to photodynamic cancer therapy and bioimaging, as well as the recent development of magnetic "nanoclinics," thin silica bubbles that can target cancer cells.

Executive director of the University at Buffalo's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, Prasad often is invited to conferences sponsored by the International Society for Optical Engineering and others to teach established researchers about biophotonics.

"The astonishing power of biophotonics to fundamentally improve the ways that society makes diagnoses, develops treatments for disease and creates innovations in information technology and telecommunications already is being seen," said Prasad, also SUNY Distinguished Professor in the departments of chemistry, physics, electrical engineering and medicine at UB.

"But our ability to realize the full potential of biophotonics in the 21st century will, by definition, depend on the ability of scientists from various fields to form true collaborations with one another."

Prasad said his book is intended to lay the groundwork for such collaborations by developing for these scientists a common language.

As executive director of the UB institute, which is home to the National Science Foundation's only graduate-level multidisciplinary program in biophotonics, Prasad is familiar with such issues. The Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training program is the only one in the nation training doctoral-level biophotonics scientists, each of whom will have more than a working knowledge of engineering, chemistry, physics and biomedicine upon graduation, in addition to expertise in a single discipline.

"We will go nowhere if we cannot get everyone to start speaking the same language," said Prasad. "This book is a major effort in that direction."

The book is written in user-friendly terms so that it can be understood by advanced undergraduate and early graduate-level students, as well as accomplished scientists with experience in biophotonics.

The book focuses on how biophotonics integrates four major technologies: lasers, photonics, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

It includes chapters designed to develop readers' understanding of the basic science underlying biophotonics, as well as an appreciation for its many applications in fields as diverse as materials science, cancer therapy, bioimaging and tissue engineering.

The book also offers the first general introduction to bionanophotonics, the study of interactions between biology and light on the nanoscale.

"Bionanophotonics, the marriage between nanoscale phenomena and biophotonics, has the potential to advance some of medical science's most promising frontiers," said Prasad, "because these phenomena allow noninvasive or minimally invasive modes of light activation for early detection of diseases and more effective targeted therapy."

The book includes a description of the nanoclinic, developed and patented by Prasad and his colleagues at UB, which can be light-guided and is activated by nothing more powerful than an ordinary MRI machine.

Each chapter that focuses on applications includes future directions in research and development and commercial sources of instrumentation and suppliers.

Concepts and subjects covered include:

* the use of light to detect disease noninvasively, called optical diagnostics

* in vivo imaging and laser mammography

* microscopies appropriate for biophotonics, including confocal, two-photon laser scanning, optical coherence tomography, total internal-reflection fluorescence and near-field microscopy

* biosensing, microarray and flow cytometry technologies as diagnostic tools

* light-based therapy and treatment, such as photodynamic cancer therapy

* the use of lasers for tissue contouring, welding and regeneration now being used in dermatology and ophthalmology

* laser tweezers and laser scissors for micromanipulation of biological objects

* the use of biomaterials in photonics-based information technologies

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