Stephen A. Boppart, M.D., Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2014
For outstanding contributions to the discovery, development, and clinical translation of optical biomedical imaging technologies

Bridging the Valley of Death in Biotech

Via SPIE | January 1, 2019

Stephen Boppart, director of the Center for Optical Molecular Imaging and head of the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), is fully committed to moving biophotonics technology from the bench to the bedside, and beyond. He encourages research faculty to drive the translation of their work into the commercial sphere—something he knows a lot about, having founded four biophotonic startup companies.

In 1998, while he was a grad student at MIT, Boppart was part of a team that co-founded LightLab Imaging, which pioneered commercialization of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for catheter-based medical imaging applications. His next company, Diagnostic Photonics, uses OCT during breast cancer surgery to assess tumor margins in real time. The third company, PhotoniCare, winner of the 2018 SPIE Startup Challenge, uses OCT to detect ear infections in children by providing real-time visualization of the middle ear. LiveBx, Boppart’s fourth and latest startup, stands for “living biopsy,” and focuses on nonlinear label-free imaging technology for tissue samples that are kept alive for a few hours after biopsy… Continue reading.

Novel imaging technique brings diagnostic potential into operating room

Via University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | December 19, 2018

A team of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers led by Bioengineering Professor Stephen Boppart has successfully visualized the tumor microenvironment of human breast tissue shortly after it was surgically removed from a patient in the operating room. The researchers achieved this using a new portable optical imaging system developed in Boppart’s lab.

This work, which was reported in a paper published online December 19 in Science Advances, marks a major step toward providing cancer researchers with a new tool for tracking tumor progression and physicians new technology for tissue pathology and diagnostics.

Typically, the process for diagnosing cancer takes several days. A surgeon first removes a tissue sample that is then processed with chemical dyes; later, the sample is sent to a pathologist for examination and subsequent diagnosis… Continue reading.

New microscope system may image cancer progression, tumorous cells in real time

Via Health Imaging | June 20, 2018

A new molecular imaging system developed by researchers from the University of Illinois may allow researchers to monitor cancerous cells as they progress inside the body.

Simultaneous label-free auto fluorescence multi-harmonic (SLAM) microscopy utilizes tailored pulses of light to simultaneously image cancerous cells and tissue with multiple wavelengths, according to a University of Illinois news release published June 20.

“The way we have been removing, processing and staining tissue for diagnosing diseases has been practiced the same way for over a century,” said lead author Stephen Boppart, MD, PhD, a practicing physician and professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois, in a prepared statement. “With advances in microscopy techniques such as ours, we hope to change the way we detect, visualize and monitor diseases that will lead to better diagnosis, treatments and outcomes… Continue reading.

Ultrafast Pulses Coherently Control Function in a Living Cell

Via Photonics Media | November 17, 2017

Researchers have used light to excite a light-sensitive channel in the membrane of optogenetic mouse neurons. When the channels were excited, they allowed ions through, which caused the neurons to fire. The researchers say the same technique could be used on cells that are naturally responsive to light, such as retina cells.

Previous research has demonstrated the use of coherently controlled light beams to regulate chemical reactions, but according to the University of Illinois team, their study is the first to use coherently controlled light pulses to demonstrate how living cell functions can be modulated via opsins, by modifying fundamental optical properties of light interacting with the retinal chromophore… Continue reading.

Surgical Probe Seeks Out Where Cancer Ends and Healthy Tissue Begins

Via MDT | September 15, 2015

A new surgical tool that uses light to make sure surgeons removing cancerous tumors “got it all” was found to correlate well with traditional pathologists’ diagnoses in a clinical study, showing that the tool could soon enable reliable, real-time guidance for surgeons.

The interdisciplinary research team led by Stephen Boppart, a University of Illinois professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering, performed the study on 35 patients with breast cancers at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. The results appear in the journal Cancer Research.
One difficult but crucial determination for surgeons and tissue pathologists is figuring out where a tumor ends. A solid tumor may be easily identifiable, but the tissue around the main body of the tumor, known as the margin, may contain cancerous cells as well. Because of this, excess tissue surrounding the tumor is typically removed, but the question lingers of whether any cancer cells remain to re-emerge later as tumors.

“In almost all solid-tumor surgeries, there’s a question of margins,” said Dr. Boppart, who also is a medical doctor. “Typically, surgeons will remove the tissue mass that contains the tumor and will send it to the lab. The pathologist will process, section and stain the tissue, then examine the thin sections on microscope slides. They look at the structure of the cells and other features of the tissue. The diagnosis is made based on subjective interpretation and often other pathologists are consulted. This is what we call the gold standard for diagnosis.”

Four Named Fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

Via University of Illinois News Bureau | November 25, 2013

Four University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Stephen A. Boppart, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Kanti Jain and William P. King are among 388 honorees recognized for their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” New fellows will be recognized in a ceremony Feb. 15 at the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“This year’s AAAS fellows demonstrate that Illinois is at the forefront of research and innovation,” said Phyllis M. Wise, the chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus. “Their outstanding scholarship has revolutionized technologies from medical imaging to microchips and added to our fundamental understanding of chemistry and materials. These four faculty members embody the spirit of Illinois research, which seeks to advance science while shaping society.”

Engineers Use Reflected Light to Illuminate the Mystery of Ear Infections

Via Scientific American | June 4, 2012

When a person suffers from chronic ear infections the culprit may be a film of bacteria or other microorganisms that builds up behind the eardrum, not unlike dental plaque on unbrushed teeth. Antibiotics are not always effective against this so-called biofilm, so it helps doctors greatly to know whether it is present before prescribing a course of treatment. Whereas conventional scopes aren’t able to see beyond the surface of the eardrum, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois has developed a new tool that can shed some light on the situation.

The device uses a non-invasive imaging system called optical coherence tomography (OCT) to collect high-resolution, three-dimensional tissue images from beams of light sent into the ear canal. The system can scan through the eardrum to any biofilm behind it. The researchers, who liken the process to ultrasound imaging that uses light instead of sonic waves, described their work last week in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nowhere to Hide: New Device Sees Bacteria Behind the Eardrum

Via University of Illinois News Bureau | May 29, 2012

Doctors can now get a peek behind the eardrum to better diagnose and treat chronic ear infections, thanks to a new medical imaging device invented by University of Illinois researchers. The device could usher in a new suite of non-invasive, 3-D diagnostic imaging tools for primary-care physicians.

The research team, led by University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Stephen Boppart, will publish their advance in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of May 28.

Ear infections are the most common conditions that pediatricians treat. Chronic ear infections can damage hearing and often require surgery to place drainage tubes in the eardrum, and problems can persist into adulthood.

Studies have found that patients who suffer from chronic ear infections may have a film of bacteria or other microorganisms that builds up behind the eardrum, very similar to dental plaque on unbrushed teeth. Finding and monitoring these so-called biofilms are important for successfully identifying and treating chronic ear infections.

Boppart Recognized with Hans Sigrist Prize

Via University of Illinois Engineering | May 14, 2012

Stephen A. Boppart, a Bliss Professor of Engineering with appointments in the departments of electrical and computer engineering, of bioengineering, and of internal medicine at Illinois, has been awarded the Hans Sigrist Prize, an international prize presented annually to a distinguished scientist in a selected field.

The 2012 award was competitively selected to honor outstanding research in the field of diagnostic laser medicine. Boppart’s interdisciplinary research group combines the fields of engineering, medicine, and biology to diagnostically assess cells and tissue for disease. Biophotonics, the application of light in medicine, biology, and biotechnology applications, allows researchers to develop novel technologies to detect disease at early stages, when it is most amenable to treatment. His Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory at the Beckman Institute focuses on developing novel optical biomedical diagnostic and imaging technologies, and translating them into clinical applications.

Computing the Best High-Resolution 3-D Tissue Images

Via University of Illinois News Bureau | April 23, 2012

Real-time, 3-D microscopic tissue imaging could be a revolution for medical fields such as cancer diagnosis, minimally invasive surgery and ophthalmology. University of Illinois researchers have developed a technique to computationally correct for aberrations in optical tomography, bringing the future of medical imaging into focus.

The computational technique could provide faster, less expensive and higher resolution tissue imaging to a broader population of users. The group describes its technique this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Boppart Presents at Congressional Briefing

Via University of Illinois Engineering | November 15, 2011

On November 17, 2011, Professor Stephen Boppart will take part in a congressional briefing convened by the Optical Society of America (OSA). The briefing is being held under the auspices of the Advisory Committee for the Congressional Research and Development Caucus.

Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineeirng and of bioengineering at Illinois, will be the first of three speakers addressing the topic, “Medical Imaging: Research and Development Saving Lives.” His specifric presentation will be on “The Future of Healthcare with Optical Biomedical Imaging.” Participants will share with members of Congress and their staff how federal support has driven the development of photonics imaging technology that is having positive impact on patients’ lives every day.

Boppart said that in his remarks he wants “to emphasize the role of medical imaging and how this technology has enabled us to look into the body at many different size scales, how imaging has enabled us to diagnose disease, and how imaging has made a difference in our healthcare.”

Federal Grant to Advance Imaging for Primary Care Physicians

Via University of Illinois Engineering | July 5, 2011

The National Institutes of Health has awarded bioengineering professor Stephen Boppart a $5 million grant for a bioengineering research partnership that will develop new handheld optical imaging technology for primary care providers.

“The result of this – if successful, could really reduce our health care costs and streamline our delivery of health care,” Boppart said.

Boppart’s research team will partner with Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, the Eye Center in Champaign, Welch Allyn (the global leader in office-based diagnostic instruments), Texas Instruments, AdvancedMEMS and Kyungpook National University in Korea.

The goal of the partnership is to create and test handheld devices capable of 3D optical coherence tomography (OCT) for primary care physicians to image the ear, eye, skin, oral tissue or cervix.