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TOKYO, Japan – June 22, 2017 – Leading semiconductor test equipment supplier Advantest Corporation (TSE: 6857) has successfully developed a method for high-resolution 3D imaging of vascular networks inside the dermis by combining photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging. The new method enables operators not only to see a tomographic image of the skin, but also to be able to precisely identify the depth of the blood vessel within the dermis. The structure of the surface of skin (texture, pores, etc.) may also be successfully imaged. The new method promises to enable in vivo measurement in a wide range of fields including healthcare and cosmetics.

(Left)
3D image of human skin on the forearm at a depth of 1.5 mm, created by combining ultrasound imagery (black and white) with photoacoustic imagery (red). Advantest's new method combines skin structure and blood vessel distribution with depth information to create a single image.
(Right)
Cross-sectional view of human skin. With this new technology, it is possible to specify the precise depth of blood vessels within the dermis.

Ultrasound imaging, which is widely used in medicine, can non-invasively image living bodies by discriminating between hard and less hard tissues, but where such differences in hardness are few, imaging is difficult. On the other hand, photoacoustic imaging*, which is being explored worldwide as a new imaging method, can image a specific substance having light absorbing characteristics – such as a blood vessel – but it also has drawbacks: Due to irregularities on the skin surface, boundaries of layers within the skin, and pores that do not absorb light, it is difficult to identify the precise position and internal structure of the target of measurement.

Advantest has been conducting bioimaging R&D since 2010. In 2015 the company launched the Hadatomo™ photoacoustic microscope, which can non-invasively image vascular networks to a depth of 3 mm below the skin surface. This new technology successfully enabled high-resolution 3D imaging of a person's forearm, using a high-frequency probe with a central frequency of 50 MHz. Thanks to Advantest's longstanding expertise in measurement technology, the company was able to synchronize photoacoustic signal reception, ultrasound transmission / reception, and scanning operations for 3D imaging without time loss, enabling the system to operate at high speed. Combining photoacoustic imaging and ultrasound imaging in a single system makes it possible to accurately and noninvasively identify the depth of vascular networks within the dermis.

(*) Photoacoustic imaging:
When a light-absorbing material is irradiated with pulsed light, it adiabatically expands and ultrasound waves are generated. Photoacoustic imaging is a technology for sensing these ultrasound waves and imaging the light-absorbing material with accurate depth information and high contrast. The Hadatomo photoacoustic microscope can image vascular networks by using a light source with a wavelength matching the light absorption characteristics of hemoglobin in the blood.

Note: All information supplied in this release is correct at the time of publication, but may be subject to change without warning.