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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy, Clinical

Instant Raman

Approximately one in every 200 people has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (1). For sufferers, it’s not just the pain and indignity of some of the disease’s characteristic symptoms (abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea) they must contend with, but also the increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer – so appropriate disease management is key.

To effectively treat the condition, it’s important to correctly diagnose the subtype – ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease – but an overlap in symptoms makes the task difficult. In fact, there is only one (significantly invasive) way to avoid diagnostic uncertainty: colon biopsy (2).

In the past, researchers have investigated less invasive techniques such as laser endomicroscopy or MRI. Unfortunately, these methods focus on structural tissue changes, which are caused by IBD rather than being a symptom of it, making disease diagnosis less accurate.

Could Raman spectroscopy offer an effective in vivo alternative? A team of researchers led by Anita Mahadevan-Jansen decided that it was worth a shot (2). By coupling the technique with a fiber-optic probe, they created a real-time, minimally invasive tool to characterize the spectral signatures of IBD, reaching 90 percent sensitivity and 75 specificity to Crohn’s disease. The method was also able to determine the severity of the disease.

By striking a balance between diagnostic accuracy and patient safety and comfort, the new tool could be an important first step toward a minimally-invasive, real-time clinical diagnostic for IBD.

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  1. GG Kaplan, “The global burden of IBD: from 2015 to 2025”, Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol, 12, 720-727 (2015). PMID: 26323879.
  2. IJ Pence et al., “Clinical characterization of in vivo inflammatory bowel disease with Raman spectroscopy”, Biomed Opt Express, 8, 524-535 (2017).
About the Author
William Aryitey

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