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Launch of the European research project CARS Explorer

The CARS Explorer project, coordinated by Didier Marguet from the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm Unit 631, CIML, Marseille), was officially launched in April in Marseille, France.

CARS Explorer is a collaborative research project funded by the European Commission under the Health priority of the 7th Framework Programme. This highly interdisciplinary consortium brings together internationally renowned physicists, biologists and clinicians of six institutional bodies from four European countries and a French SME.

Financed for three years, CARS Explorer seeks to demonstrate the concept of innovative light-based contrasting technologies for functional in situ imaging in life science and biomedical research. The ultimate goal of the consortium is to develop an endoscope based on non-linear optics (NLO) and laser pulse phase shaping.

Today, NLO technologies allow primarily low-depth exploration. However, they present major opportunities at the morphological and molecular level which makes it an original tool for biomedical analysis without requiring preliminary sample preparation, thus providing real time information to the patients.

To bring the concept to the diagnostic level, Cars Explorer partners will explore the molecular and morphological NLO signatures associated with tumour development in skin cancer, one of the fastest growing cancers in Europe with an incidence increase of 5 to 7 % a year. (Source: Ligue contre le Cancer). The consortium will concentrate its efforts on the so designated Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) microscopy technique which permits to produce real time 3D images of cells and tissues at a molecular level, without any labelling or staining.

The development of this novel imaging technology will allow an efficient use of our knowledge of cancer molecular modifications. Indeed, this project will have a major strategic and economic impact by providing a non-invasive functional exploration method for clinical research and treatment, in particular for the prevention, diagnosis and monitoring of cancer. In the end, “an imaging technology capable of providing in vivo information both at the cellular and molecular level would be an outstanding and decisive breakthrough. It is certain that such approaches will play an increasingly central part in oncology and clinical research as well in the treatment of patients affected by cancer” says Didier Marguet.

The CARS Explorer consortium is coordinated by the French National Institute for the Health and Medical research (Inserm) and includes the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the de Duve Institute (Belgium), the University of Stuttgart (Germany), the University of Bath (UK), Mauna Kea Technologies SAS (a French SME specialised in minimally-invasive biomedical imaging) and Inserm Transfert SA (France).

Céline Cortot | alfa
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