Biological tissues show intrinsic fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy contrast because of the presence of autofluorescent structures like riboflavins and NADH. While autofluorescence is disadvantageous for observing tagged proteins of interest with e.g. fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, the exploitation of differences in the autofluorescent properties of biological tissue will increase the throughput and reliability of histopathological screening.
Autofluorescence can be used to detect molecular changes arising from diseases such as cancer and to differentiate normal cells/tissues from cancerous cells/ tissues. Namely, between normal and tumour cells differences in lifetime of normal autofluorescence have been detected. One approach is the combination of fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy to endoscopy, whereby the endoscope is equipped with a laser. During endoscopic research, the tumour cells can be recognised and immediately burned away with the high-power laser.