CD-4: Advanced Optical in vivo Imaging in Patients

Coordinators: M. Ellrichmann (CAU), R. Huber (UzL), D. Zillikens (UzL)

The CD-4 team applies state-of-the-art laser technology methods, using light to represent complex cellular and molecular structures in the living human body and characterize their function in inflammatory diseases. They are particularly focused on the gastrointestinal tract, the skin and the respiratory tract. The newly-developed techniques from research area RTF VII are tested in clinical studies in CD-4, with the aim of improving diagnosis and identifying the individual patient response to treatment at an early stage in the context of precision medicine.

What does this research area's work build on?

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a well-established laser-based imaging technique in ophthalmology which, similar to an ultrasound, uses the reflection of light waves from different tissue interfaces. The clinical application in other areas of medicine has been very limited to date. Only recently have approvals been granted for an endoscopic OCT procedure for esophageal diagnostics and a procedure for application on the skin. Previously, most studies dealt with the visual presentation of tumor diseases - there is hardly any data on inflammatory diseases. Based on this approved examination procedure, and in cooperation with RTF VII, new laser technological processes such as significantly improved OCT, Raman and 2-photon imaging should be applied in clinical diagnostics.


What are the main research objectives?

The major focus is on the representation of the cellular and molecular changes in inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the skin and the respiratory tract. Through the accurate representation of the inflammatory processes, a response to treatment should be detected at an early stage in order to enable individual adaptation of the treatment strategy.


What makes this research area special?

The close cooperation of engineering expertise with clinical applications is leading the way towards a further development of state-of-the-art imaging methods in inflammation medicine. Laser technological possibilities already enable microscopically small cell changes to be identified and assessed in real time. The existing experimental methods can only be transferred into clinical application with direct benefits for the patient by close dialogue between the different scientific disciplines.


What does the research area contribute to precision medicine in chronic inflammation?

Only if molecular and cellular changes are detected at an early stage of disease progression and treatment in inflammatory diseases, is it also possible to make and optimize individual treatment decisions. CD-4 therefore makes a decisive contribution to treatment management, and where applicable also a prediction of response to treatment, in the context of precision medicine.


Cooperation with other research areas in the cluster

There is close cooperation between CD-4 and RTF VII, in which new imaging methods are developed. In addition, the findings from molecular characterization of the inflammatory processes from the areas RTF II, III and VI can be directly compared with the new imaging methods.