Robert McLaughlin

A/Prof. Robert McLaughlin


A microscope-in-a-needle: OCT and fluorescence needle probes


Optical imaging technologies, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), have the potential to provide exquisitely high-resolution images of tissue. However, their limited image penetration depth places most diseases beyond their reach. Our lab has focused on the development of OCT needle probes, highly miniaturized imaging probes that are encased within a hypodermic needle, and that may be inserted deep into tissue. In this talk, I will describe our development of OCT needle probes, showing specific case-studies in breast cancer and lung imaging. Our smallest 3D scanning probes have an outer diameter of only 310 microns, and are encased within a 30-gauge needle. We have developed dynamic needle probes, capable of acquiring 3D volumetric datasets in a few seconds. We have also integrated our probes into biopsy needles to guide tissue sampling and to warn of nearby blood vessels. Recent work has looked at the development of flexible needles for endobronchial imaging. In addition, we have developed the first dual-modality needle probes, capable of simultaneously acquiring OCT and fluorescence images, and showed them to be sufficiently sensitive to detect signal from fluorescently-labelled anti-bodies targeted for specific cells types.




After completing his PhD at the University of Western Australia, Dr McLaughlin was employed for three years at the University of Oxford as a postdoctoral researcher. He then left academia for industry, working in a spin-off company from the University of Oxford, and eventually being appointed as Product Manager at Siemens Medical Solutions. He was responsible for the development of three commercial medical products. He returned to Australia in 2007 and took a position as Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia (UWA). He has published 2 book chapters, 59 scientific journal papers and 7 patents, and been awarded over $3.5M in research funding. He has over 1500 citations in Google Scholar. In 2011, he received the National Breast Cancer Foundation Patron’s Award for ‘Innovation and Vision in Research, and was awarded a fellowship from Cancer Council WA. In 2014, he won the SPIE Start-up Challenge business pitch competition as part of Photonics West, and led the team named as WA Innovator of the Year. He was also a recipient of the UWA Vice-Chancellor’s Mid-career Research Award and lead the team awarded the UWA Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Impact and Innovation.
His work has focused on the development of optical needle probes, with a particular focus on their use in cancer.