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Science Prize of the Donors' Association - Erwin Schrödinger Prize

Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health and the Groningen University Medical Center have been awarded the 2011 Erwin Schrödinger Prize for developing a new surgical technique.

Foto Operation
Vor der Operation wird eine fluoreszierende Substanz injiziert, die sich gezielt in den Tumorherden anreichert. Photo/Graphic: IBMI / Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Foto Echtzeitkamera
Die von den Forschern entwickelte Technik basiert auf einer Echtzeitkamera, die Fluoreszenz im Gewebe erfassen kann. Photo/Graphic: IBMI / Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos of the Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and Professor Gooitzen Michell van Dam of the Groningen University Medical Center have developed a molecular imaging process that allows tumour cells to be detected in real time in the operating theatre using a fluorescence camera. Most operations and endoscopic interventions are still performed using only the human eye. However, surgeons have an extremely limited view of the inside of the body: even with modern techniques, they can see only the upper layers of tissue. Very small, concealed tumours remain practically invisible.

The new technique uses a real-time camera that records fluorescence in tissue. It allows tiny tumours to be detected in the interior of the body without causing damage to surrounding tissue. Before this technique was developed, it was extremely difficult or even impossible to diagnose tiny tumour clusters during surgery. Now surgeons are able to evaluate results while they operate.