Did you ever expect to be working in the biomedical field? What expertise you are bringing into the initiative?
I started to work in the Biomedical Optics field fifteen years ago during my MSc. thesis in Electronic Engineering. I was so fascinated by the field that I decided to focus my PhD in Physics towards this topic. My main expertise is in time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy (TR-NIRS) and in the development of optoelectronic systems to perform in vivo tissue characterization. As project manager of the PoliMi unit, my main goal is to follow the development of the TR-NIRS system from the single component up to its final application in the clinic.
How did you become involved in this project?
I met Turgut (PI of the LUCA project) the first time in 2005 and when he moved to the United States, all of the biomedical optics group of PoliMi started a close collaboration with him. When Turgut came to me with the idea of the LUCA project, I found it extremely interesting and considered it a wonderful opportunity to exploit the technology for TR-NIRS developed by my group together with my colleague Alberto Tosi and his group.
You have developed non-invasive measurement systems. For this project, are the techniques used completely different from the ones you had implemented before? What are the pros of this new approach?
The physical background is the same. The use of a time-resolved technique improves accuracy in tissue characterization and depth resolution. The difference between LUCA and the previous systems I have developed resides in the technology that is being employed. In fact, all the key components employed were tailor made at PoliMi to reduce dimensions, costs, complexity and improve reliability and robustness without sacrificing performance.
Have you had any relative suffer this illness? What you do think is the most innovative aspect of this technique that will help patients overcome the illness?
In fact, two close relatives of mine have thyroid problems, so I’ve been in touch, first hand, with these health issues that we would like to solve with the LUCA project. The benefits of this new technique would include: i) the possibility to better characterize tissue (structure, metabolism, composition etc.) improving accuracy and sensitivity of diagnosis; ii) the complete non-invasiveness, which can reduce the discomfort of the patient during the examination.
What makes this project different from others?
I believe that Optics and Optoelectronics can really make a difference in the biomedical world. Physics teaches us that it is possible to investigate inside our bodies by using light and today’s technology has reached so far that it can transform these theories into real clinical instruments. I’m certain that LUCA’s consortium has all the necessary expertise to reach this goal.
Davide Contini received the master’s degree in electronics engineering and the Ph.D. degree in Physics from Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, in 2003 and 2007, respectively. He was an Assistant Professor from 2008 to 2014. He has been an Associate Professor of Physics with Politecnico di Milano since 2014. His research activity is focused on the study of the interaction of laser light with matter. In this framework, his main topic of interest is time-resolved spectroscopy of highly diffusive media for applications in biology and medicine.