Biomedical Engineering

Cancer Center Distinguished Seminar: Daniel Elson (Imperial College, London)

Daniel Elson


Daniel S. Elson, Ph.D. (Senior Lecturer in Surgical Imaging Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery – Institute of Global Health Innovation, Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London)

“Surgical imaging and biophotonics, from spectroscopy to surgical robots”

Surgical imaging describes the application of a broad range of imaging, vision and optical techniques to assist surgeons for intrasurgical decision making.  Some of these techniques aim to replace current technology such as the xenon lamp with new ergonomic and functional light sources that are able to enhance the surgeon’s view. Another area where surgical vision plays an important role is in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery. A higher degree of control for the surgeon, and devices capable of precise motion, has led to the possibility of careful movement of spectroscopic instruments across the tissue surface and improved mosaicing of microscopic image fields.

During this presentation a number of surgical imaging and biophotonics devices that are currently in development will be outlined.  Two recent new endoscopic light sources will be presented: the use of a supercontinuum light source and a LED light source, including their use for spectroscopic tissue measurements.  Secondly, the use of a da Vinci trinocular rigid endoscope will be described with 3D stereoscopic reconstruction and alignment of multimodal optical images. This registration allows the extraction of tissue oxygenation and perfusion in bowel and womb tissue, which could potentially be used to image changes in tissue blood supply during a surgery. Finally a new endoscopic method of detecting the 3D surface profile of different tissues will be introduced.  This method is based on the projection of spectrally encoded spots onto the tissue surface together with a method of triangulation. This technology has been assessed in vitro and results suggest that it could be used to align and register pre-operative medical images onto the live endoscopic view for surgical guidance.


Dr. Elson obtained a first Class MSci (Hons) in Physics, Imperial College, London in 1999. This was followed by a Ph.D. in Physics in 2003 supervised by Professor Paul French and entitled ‘Development of Ultrafast Laser Technology and its Application to Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging’. In 2005 he was appointed as a lecturer in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Imperial College London jointly with the Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology. In 2010 he joined the newly launched Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery, where he is currently a senior lecturer in surgical imaging in association with the Department of Surgery and Cancer.

Dr. Elson is leading the biophotonics and surgical imaging laboratory within the Hamlyn Centre and is working to translate promising emerging optical and biophotonics diagnostic imaging and therapy techniques. The laboratory designs, builds and tests optical imaging and spectroscopy instruments that are able to detect of diseased tissue states using techniques such as diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography and microconfocal endoscopy. These methods can then be used to either permit minimally invasive screening procedures for the detection of various pathologies, and they promise the possibility of obtaining a real-time diagnostic without the delays or tissue damage required for traditional histopathology. Beyond these core optical imaging research tools, the laboratory is also developing instruments and techniques that can be used in the field of image-guided and robotic assisted surgery.

Presented by Laura Marcu, Ph.D., Co-leader, Scientific Program in Biomedical Technology, UC Davis Cancer Center, Professor, Biomedical Engineering Program