Dielectric Characterization of Biological Tissues for Medical Applications
Alejandro Fornés Leal
Nowadays, a careful knowledge of the electromagnetic properties of biological tissues is required for developing a great number of applications. The development of wireless medical devices, the design of in-body and on-body antennas, specific absorption rate evaluations, cancer treatment techniques such as hyperthermia and detection techniques like medical imaging are some examples of applications that rely on these data. Since cancer causes modifications on the biological structure of cells that can lead in turn to changes in the electromagnetic properties of the tissues, it is possible to develop novel detection applications taking advantage of it. One potential target is colorectal cancer (CRC), as suspicious tissues can be accessed quite easily through colonoscopy procedures. This kind of cancer is one of the most spread kinds, being responsible of about 1 out of 10 new cancer cases and deaths. There are several risk factors currently related to the apprising of this cancer, although in essence the higher the age of the population, the higher the incidence of CRC. Screening programs are key for detecting and diagnosing cancer: if found at early stages, the probability of survival increases greatly, and the cost of the treatment can be reduced as well. One of the major objectives of this dissertation is proposing applications for detecting CRC that aid in the colonoscopy procedures by making use of the differences in electromagnetic properties. Aside from enhancement in the diagnosis of CRC, improving the colonoscopy procedure can lead to collateral benefits like a lowering of the burden of anatomical pathology unit. With the aim at demonstrating the feasibility and the potential future development of these applications, in the framework of this thesis the dielectric properties of healthy, cancerous and pathological human colon tissues are measured and compared in order to find electromagnetic differences. Measurements are carried out by means of an open-ended coaxial system. Its principle of operation has been revisited with the aim at maximizing the accuracy of the method, and the calibration procedure has been optimized serving the same purpose. Two main sources of colon tissue have been analyzed: samples from colonoscopy biopsies and samples from surgery resections. Besides healthy tissue, the following colon tissues have been characterized: Adenocarcinomas (CRC), adenomas without dysplasia, adenomas with low-grade dysplasia, adenomas with high-grade dysplasia, hyperplastic polyps and hamartomatous polyps. Given the variability that can appear among subjects, the electromagnetic properties of suspicious tissues from a particular patient have to be always compared with those of his healthy ones, not evaluated independently. The second major objective of this thesis involves the development of a new database of electromagnetic properties of biological tissues obtained at in vivo conditions. Nowadays, the available collections are limited either in the number of tissues or the measured frequencies, and hence researchers have to make use of more complete databases but that were performed ex vivo. The drawback of using these collections is that results can be compromised by factors such as lack of blood perfusion and tissue dehydration. Developing this new database can facilitate the design of applications that needs of a careful knowledge of these properties.