Hearing the light from the body – the next generation of imaging

GO-Bio 3 – Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos, Christian Wiest – Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging (IBMI), Helmholtz Center Munich | iThera Medical GmbH


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Recipient: Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging (IBMI), Helmholtz Center Munich
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.06.2010 - 30.09.2011, 1.167.683 Euro)

Recipient: iThera Medical GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (01.10.2011 - 31.12.2013, 3.004.688 Euro)


The development of the microscope over 400 years ago provided the scientific field with unprecedented insights into the material world. In living organisms, however, the conventional techniques of light microscopy came up against their limits. Vasilis Ntziachristos from the Helmholtz Center Munich has succeeded in overcoming these limitations: Using extremely short flashes of laser light, he can penetrate living tissues up to depths of several centimetres. The cells and molecules heat up and expand as they absorb the laser flashes. The resulting minute pressure waves can be detected as weak ultrasonic signals.

Using these sound signals, the scientist is able to calculate a real-time, high-resolution image from inside the organism. iThera Medical GmbH was founded in 2010 with the aim of developing and marketing this ‘Multi-Spectral Opto-Acoustic Tomography’ (MSOT) up to market readiness. Assisted by a one-year grant from GO-Bio, the company, which is headed by Christian Wiest, constructed a prototype that has been under testing since November 2010 in the research department of a large US pharmaceutical company active in the field of preclinical research.

In the coming two years of GO-Bio funding, iThera Medical will be pushing forward the development of a further prototype that can be equipped with a hand-held probe for applications in humans. Contrast agents designed specifically for use in patients with cardiovascular diseases will also be developed. The market launch of the human clinical imaging is anticipated at the end of the funding phase (2013).