A tiny needle has been developed with a built-in fibre-optic camera to allow scientists and doctors to see inside the body.
The tiny ultrasound needle was developed to be used in keyhole surgery and relays images in real-time to a screen for the doctor to see.
Researchers suggest that the innovative needle could even be used to perform in-womb surgery on unborn babies in the future.
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The tiny ultrasound needle was developed to be used in keyhole surgery and relays real-time high-resolution pictures up to an inch (2.5cm) in front of the needle back to a screen
A miniature optical fibre encased within a customised clinical needle delivers a brief pulse of light which generates ultrasonic pulses.
These pulses bounce of tissue and are detected by a sensor in a separate optical fibre.
This produces an ultrasound image which is relayed in real-time to the operating doctor.
Carbon nanotubes absorb pulsed laser light, and this absorption leads to an ultrasound wave via the photoacoustic effect.
Another innovation was the development of highly sensitive optical fibre sensors based on polymer optical microresonators for detecting the ultrasound waves.
Currently, surgeons have to rely on external ultrasound probes combined with pre-operative imaging scans to visualise soft tissue and organs.
But the optical ultrasound needle, which was developed by scientists from University College London (UCL) and Queen Mary