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Learning from butterflies to tackle cancer

Mimicking the visual system of the morpho butterfly has helped scientists create a camera that highlights cancerous cells under surgical lighting


Researchers have created a camera that is capable of imaging cancer cells under bright surgical lighting by studying the visual system of the morpho butterfly.

The camera takes both a colour image and a near-infrared image that makes the fluorescently labelled cancer cells visible.

Research team leader, Viktor Gruev, highlighted that the scientists looked to nature for inspiration for the technology.

They learned from the morpho butterfly, which can sense multispectral information through nanostructures in the insect’s eye.

This allows the butterfly to receive both near-infrared and colour information simultaneously.

“During surgery, it is imperative that all cancerous tissue is removed and we’ve created an imaging platform that could help surgeons do this in any hospital around the world because it is small, compact and inexpensive,” Dr Gruev shared.

The camera weighs less than a AA battery and can be manufactured for around £14.

The research team’s findings are published in Optica.