Fluorescent dye found for producing optimal biological images

A comparison of blood vessels imaged with short-wave fluorescent imaging (right), and near-infrared fluorescent imaging (right). Courtesy of MIT News.

Researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital found indocyanine green, an FDA-approved and commercially available fluorescent dye, ideal in short-wave infrared (SWIR) imaging—a discovery that may allow clinicians to create clearer biological images, MIT News reports. 

Fluorescence imaging is commonly used to visualize biological tissues, such as the back of the eye, and make sure blood vessels are adequately connected during reconstructive surgery.

Traditionally, the near-infrared portion of the light spectrum is used in these procedures, but light with wavelengths greater than 1,000 nanometers—short-wave infrared (SWIR)—offers clearer images.

“What we found is that this dye, which has been approved since 1959, is really the best, the brightest fluorophore that we know of at this point for imaging in the short-wave infrared,” said Moungi Bawendi, the Lester Wolf Professor of Chemistry at MIT. “Now clinicians can start to try short-wave imaging for their applications because they already have a fluorophore which is approved for use in humans.”

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