Miniature microscopes are being developed to examine tissue in situ for early anatomic and molecular indicators of disease, in real time, and at cellular resolution. These new devices will lead to a shift from the current diagnostic paradigm of biopsy followed by histopathology and recommended therapy, to one of non-invasive point-of-care diagnosis with the possibility of treatment in the same session. This potential revolution in disease management may have a major impact on the training of future physicians to include the use and interpretation of real-time in vivo microscopic data, and will also affect the emerging fields of telepathology and telemedicine. Implementation of new technologies into clinical practice is a complex process that requires multidisciplinary communication and collaboration among clinicians, engineers and scientists. As such, our aim is to provide a forward-looking view of the critical issues facing the development of new technologies and directing clinical education. Here, we focus on the use of in vivo microscopy for detection of malignant and pre-malignant lesions as well as for guiding therapy. We will highlight some of the areas in which in vivo microscopy could address unmet clinical needs, and then review the technological challenges that are being addressed, or need to be addressed, for in vivo microscopy to become an effective clinical tool.
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