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Boppart named one of the world's top young innovators by Technology Review

James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor

(217) 244-1073;

Released 5/23/

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Stephen A. Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been chosen as one of the world's 100 Top Young Innovators by Technology Review, the world's oldest technology magazine.

Selected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's award-winning magazine of innovation, the TR100 consists of people under age 35 whose innovative work in technology and business has a profound impact on today's world. Nominees are recognized for their contribution in transforming the nature of technology in industries such as biotechnology, computing, energy, manufacturing, medicine, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation.

Boppart has helped to dramatically improve the resolution of optical coherence tomography (OCT), an imaging technique useful for medical diagnostics – such as the detection and removal of tumors at the cellular level. Similar in operation to ultrasound, OCT works by focusing a beam of near-infrared light (like that used in CD players) into tissue and measuring the intensity and position of the resulting reflections.

Boppart also converted the imaging hardware into a handheld probe that looks like a laser pointer. A version of this device is being used by surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to see through a patient’s skin and through internal tissue before making an incision.

In collaboration with Illinois chemistry professor Ken Suslick, Boppart is developing microspheres that enhance the contrast for OCT. The tiny spheres – filled with air or some other light-scattering media – create a stronger signal than the surrounding tissue.

"Our goal is to design very selectable contrast agents that we can inject intravenously and that will migrate and localize to a tumor," said Boppart, who also is a physician and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on the Urbana campus. By enhancing contrast locally, the microspheres would permit OCT to be used both for early detection and for advanced tumor diagnostics.

Using high-resolution OCT or OCT contrast agents, scientists might be able to study how cells migrate through tissue and metastasize, Boppart said. "Enhanced OCT imaging could even provide surgical guidance – in real time – to help find a tumor and remove all of it, without taking too much of the surrounding tissue."

Boppart is being honored today during a conference and awards ceremony at MIT. The event, themed "The Innovation Economy: How Technology is Transforming Existing Businesses and Creating New Ones," includes a full day of conference sessions and panel discussions followed by an evening gala awards ceremony. Technology Review’s editor-in-chief John Benditt and CNBC’s Consuelo Mack are hosting the event.