Exposed – camera shoots at 100 million frames per second

As an editor of scientific magazines I come across some astounding numbers – the number of floating point operations per second performed by the latest high-performance computers, for instance, or the vast quantity of scientific journal articles published each year, writes Tim Gillett.

Occasionally, though, one is introduced to a fact that seems barely believable – one that instantly requires checking because it just *has* to be a typo, right?

That was exactly my reaction when I was asked to proof-read a story for our magazine Imaging and Machine Vision Europe, referring to a camera that will be able to shoot an astonishing 100 million frames per second at one-megapixel resolution with the aim of imaging tissue in cancer research.

The world’s most advanced high-speed video camera is being developed by the Rosalind Franklin Institute, based in Oxfordshire, UK, and will be used to further researchers’ understanding of a new cancer drug delivery method using ultrasound.

Researchers will be able to see how ultrasound interacts with drug-loaded particles and tissue, and how that enables controlled uptake of drugs into cancer cells. The camera will help researchers understand the biophysical mechanisms behind the drug delivery method.

The new instrument will be developed through a collaboration between an team at the University of Oxford and a UK-SME specialising in high-speed imaging, Invisible Vision. Once completed, it will be housed at the new Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) being built at the Harwell Research Complex in Oxfordshire.

Eleanor Stride from the University of Oxford explained: ‘A major challenge with current delivery methods for cancer drugs is that they rely on the active molecules reaching and entering the tumour cells by diffusion. This makes it difficult to ensure that all parts of a tumour are treated and leads to terrible side effects because large volumes of healthy tissue also absorb the drug. We need to find a better way to get these drugs into cancer cells specifically, quickly and effectively.’

She continued: ‘The approach we’re developing introduces harmless particles into the bloodstream and then uses ultrasound to activate them, in order to both release the drug at a specific site and helping to drive it into the tumour to reach all of the cells within in it.’

Currently, the fastest long-record-duration framing cameras in the world best suited for these applications are still mechanical, operating at speeds of 25 million frames per second. The new camera will be smaller and more compact, around the size of a conventional video camera.

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