Fibre optic probe developed to monitor brain temperature following injury

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Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics in Australia have developed an optical fibre-based probe capable of making pinpoint brain temperature measurements in moving lab animals

The work was published in Biomedical Optics Express from The Optical Society.

A fully developed version of the probe could provide a way to measure brain temperature even after traumatic incidents have occurred, where the brain is highly sensitive to a change in temperature.

The probe, built by lead author Stefan Musolino and his colleagues, consists of an optical fibre within a protective sleeve, and encased within a 4mm-long 25 gauge needle. ‘The area that can measure temperature is less than 125µm in size,’ said study co-author Erik Schartner, ‘making it highly spatially precise and able to isolate temperature readings from very small brain areas.’

The researchers say it is possible to make the temperature-sensing area of the probe tip smaller still — as small as a few microns across — by modifying the probe’s design.

The end-face of the approximately 2mm-long probe tip is dipped into molten glass made of tellurite, doped with a small amount of the rare-earth oxide erbium. When inserted into the brain, the colour of the light emitted from the erbium ions will vary depending on the temperature of the surrounding tissue; the temperature of that tissue can therefore be determined by monitoring the light of these colour changes. This method allows for measurements to be performed with a precision of 0.1°C.

The probe’s immediate application will be to investigate changes in brain temperature within moving lab animals exposed to certain drugs of abuse, such as MDMA, or ecstasy.

‘It is only recently that more studies in my area of research — drug-induced hyperthermia — have started looking at changes in brain temperature in addition to changes in core body temperature within drug-treated animals,’ said Musolino. ‘We wanted to further investigate these drug-induced brain temperature changes using centre developed probes in order to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms driving them.’

‘We will also look at the possible therapeutic properties of the tetracycline antibiotic minocycline and its ability to attenuate the changes in temperature caused by the administration of MDMA,’ continued Musolino. ‘In the future we will also be looking into combining this probe with other optical sensors in the hopes of developing new optical fibre-based sensing techniques for use in medical science labs that are examining real-word medical problems.’

Eventually, a fully developed probe could be used to monitor human brain temperature after a traumatic brain injury, stroke or haemorrhage — where the brain is extremely sensitive, and small deviations in temperature can lead to additional brain injury.

‘Continuous monitoring of brain temperature after brain injury would allow for the effects of hyperthermia management techniques such as anti-pyretics — drugs that reduces fever — and hypothermia to be observed and evaluated by clinicians in real time,’ Musolino said. ‘These new tools and this deeper understanding will ultimately give us better understanding of the brain and how to more quickly reacts to brain injury.’

Further Information:

The paper in Biomedical Optics Express 

ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics

The University of Adelaide