Photoacoustic endoscopy offers in vivo examination of the visceral tissue using endogenous contrast, but its typical B-scan rate is ∼10 Hz, restricted by the speed of the scanning unit and the laser pulse repetition rate. Here, we present a transvaginal fast-scanning optical-resolution photoacoustic endoscope with a 250-Hz B-scan rate over a 3-mm scanning range. Using this modality, we not only illustrated the morphological differences of vasculatures among the human ectocervix, uterine body, and sublingual mucosa but also showed the longitudinal and cross-sectional differences of cervical vasculatures in pregnant women. This technology is promising for screening the visceral pathological changes associated with angiogenesis.
Premature cervical remodeling is a critical precursor of spontaneous preterm birth, and the remodeling process is characterized by an increase in tissue hydration. Nevertheless, current clinical measurements of cervical remodeling are subjective and detect only late events, such as cervical effacement and dilation. Here, we present a photoacoustic endoscope that can quantify tissue hydration by measuring near-infrared cervical spectra. We quantify the water contents of tissue-mimicking hydrogel phantoms as an analog of cervical connective tissue. Applying this method to pregnant women in vivo, we observed an increase in the water content of the cervix throughout pregnancy. The application of this technique in maternal healthcare may advance our understanding of cervical remodeling and provide a sensitive method for predicting preterm birth.
We have enhanced photoacoustic computed tomography with dry acoustic coupling that eliminates water immersion anxiety and wrinkling of the animal and facilitates incorporating complementary modalities and procedures. The dry acoustic coupler is made of a tubular elastic membrane enclosed by a closed transparent water tank. The tubular membrane ensures water-free contact with the animal, and the closed water tank allows pressurization for animal stabilization. The dry coupler was tested using a whole-body small-animal ring-shaped photoacoustic computed tomography system. Dry coupling was found to provide image quality comparable to that of conventional water coupling.
We applied a linear-array-based photoacoustic probe to detect the tumor depth and volume of melanin-containing melanoma in nude mice in vivo. We demonstrated the ability of this linear-array-based system to measure both the depth and volume of melanoma through phantom, ex vivo, and in vivo experiments. The volume detection ability also enables us to accurately calculate the rate of growth of the tumor, which is important in quantifying tumor activity. Our results show that this system can be used for clinical melanoma diagnosis and treatment at the bedside.
Quantification of vascular elasticity can help detect thrombosis and prevent life-threatening conditions such as acute myocardial infarction or stroke. Here, we propose vascular elastic photoacoustic tomography (VE-PAT) to measure vascular elasticity in humans. VE-PAT was developed by incorporating a linear-array-based photoacoustic computed tomography system with a customized compression stage. By measuring the deformation of blood vessels under uniaxial loading, VE-PAT was able to quantify the vascular compliance. We first demonstrated the feasibility of VE-PAT in blood vessel phantoms. In large vessel phantoms, VE-PAT detected a decrease in vascular compliance due to simulated thrombosis, which was validated by a standard compression test. In small blood vessel phantoms embedded 3 mm deep in gelatin, VE-PAT detected elasticity changes at depths that are difficult to image using other elasticity imaging techniques. We then applied VE-PAT to assess vascular compliance in a human subject and detected a decrease in vascular compliance when an occlusion occurred downstream from the measurement point, demonstrating the potential of VE-PAT in clinical applications such as detection of deep venous thrombosis.
We applied compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), a computational imaging technique, to acquire three-dimensional (3D) images. The approach unites image encryption, compression, and acquisition in a single measurement, thereby allowing efficient and secure data transmission. By leveraging the time-of-flight (ToF) information of pulsed light reflected by the object, we can reconstruct a volumetric image (150 mm×150 mm×1050 mm, x × y × z) from a single camera snapshot. Furthermore, we demonstrated high-speed 3D videography of a moving object at 75 frames per second using the ToF-CUP camera.
Characterization of blood vessel elastic properties can help in detecting thrombosis and preventing life-threatening conditions such as acute myocardial infarction or stroke. Vascular elastic photoacoustic tomography (VE-PAT) is proposed to measure blood vessel compliance in humans. Implemented on a linear-array-based photoacoustic computed tomography system, VE-PAT can quantify blood vessel compliance changes due to simulated thrombosis and occlusion. The feasibility of the VE-PAT system was first demonstrated by measuring the strains under uniaxial loading in perfused blood vessel phantoms and quantifying their compliance changes due to the simulated thrombosis. The VE-PAT system detected a decrease in the compliances of blood vessel phantoms with simulated thrombosis, which was validated by a standard compression test. The VE-PAT system was then applied to assess blood vessel compliance in a human subject. Experimental results showed a decrease in compliance when an occlusion occurred downstream from the measurement point in the blood vessels, demonstrating VE-PAT’s potential for clinical thrombosis detection.
We present spatially Fourier-encoded photoacoustic microscopy using a digital micromirror device (DMD). The spatial fluence distribution of laser pulses is Fourier-encoded by the DMD, and a series of such encoded photoacoustic (PA) measurements enables decoding of the spatial distribution of optical absorption. By imaging a chromium target, we demonstrated the throughput and Fellgett advantages, which increased the PA signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) compared to raster scanning. The system was used to image two biological targets, a monolayer of red blood cells, and melanoma cells. The enhanced SNR benefited PA images by increasing the image’s contrast-to-noise ratio and target identifiability.
Intravital microscopy techniques have become increasingly important in biomedical research because they can provide unique microscopic views of various biological or disease developmental processes in situ. Here we present an optical-resolution photoacoustic endomicroscopy (OR-PAEM) system that visualizes internal organs with a much finer resolution than conventional acoustic-resolution photoacoustic endoscopy systems. By combining gradient index (GRIN) lens-based optical focusing and ultrasonic ring transducer-based acoustic focusing, we achieved a transverse resolution as fine as ~10 μm at an optical working distance of 6.5 mm. The OR-PAEM system’s high-resolution intravital imaging capability is demonstrated through animal experiments.
Combining the absorption-based photoacoustic effect and intensity-dependent photobleaching effect, we demonstrate a simple method for super-resolution photoacoustic imaging of both fluorescent and non-fluorescent samples. Our method is based on a double-excitation process, where the first excitation pulse partially and inhomogeneously bleaches the molecules in the diffraction-limited excitation volume, thus biasing the signal contributions from a second excitation pulse striking the same region. By scanning the excitation beam, we performed three-dimensional sub-diffraction imaging of varied fluorescent and non-fluorescent species. A lateral resolution of 80 nm and an axial resolution of 370 nm have been demonstrated. This technique has the potential to enable label-free super-resolution imaging, and can be transferred to other optical imaging modalities or combined with other super-resolution methods.
We have successfully developed a fully-sheathed, flexible shaft-based, mechanical scanning photoacoustic endoscopy (PAE) system for imaging the human gastrointestinal tract via the instrument channel of a clinical video endoscope. The endoscopic system uses a single element ultrasonic transducer and flexible shaft-based proximal actuation mechanism, and it has a 2.5 m long and 3.2 mm diameter catheter section, which can be accommodated in the 3.7 mm diameter instrument channel of a clinical video endoscope. Here, we demonstrate the intra-instrument channel workability and in vivo imaging capability of the PAE system.
Confocal microscopy with optical sectioning has revolutionized biological studies by providing sharper images than conventional optical microscopy. Here, we introduce a fluorescence imaging method with enhanced resolution and imaging contrast, which can be implemented using a commercial confocal microscope setup. This approach, called the reversibly switchable photo-imprint microscopy (rsPIM), is based on the switching dynamics of reversibly switchable fluorophores. When the fluorophores are switched from the bright (ON) state to the dark (OFF) state, their switching rate carries the information about the local excitation light intensity. In rsPIM, a polynomial function is used to fit the fluorescence signal decay during the transition. The extracted high-order coefficient highlights the signal contribution from the center of the excitation volume, and thus sharpens the resolution in all dimensions. In particular, out-of-focus signals are greatly blocked for large targets, and thus the image contrast is considerably enhanced. Notably, since the fluorophores can be cycled between the ON and OFF states, the whole imaging process can be repeated. RsPIM imaging with enhanced image contrast was demonstrated in both fixed and live cells using a reversibly switchable synthetic dye and a genetically encoded red fluorescent protein. Since rsPIM does not require the modification of commercial microscope systems, it may provide a simple and cost-effective solution for subdiffraction imaging of live cells.
Super-resolution microscopy techniques—capable of overcoming the diffraction limit of light—have opened new opportunities to explore subcellular structures and dynamics not resolvable in conventional far-field microscopy. However, relying on staining with exogenous fluorescent markers, these techniques can sometimes introduce undesired artifacts to the image, mainly due to large tagging agent sizes and insufficient or variable labeling densities. By contrast, the use of endogenous pigments allows imaging of the intrinsic structures of biological samples with unaltered molecular constituents. Here, we report label-free photoacoustic (PA) nanoscopy, which is exquisitely sensitive to optical absorption, with an 88 nm resolution. At each scanning position, multiple PA signals are successively excited with increasing laser pulse energy. Because of optical saturation or nonlinear thermal expansion, the PA amplitude depends on the nonlinear incident optical fluence. The high-order dependence, quantified by polynomial fitting, provides super-resolution imaging with optical sectioning. PA nanoscopy is capable of super-resolution imaging of either fluorescent or nonfluorescent molecules.
We report a flexible shaft-based mechanical scanning photoacoustic endoscopy (PAE) system that can be potentially used for imaging the human gastrointestinal tract via the instrument channel of a clinical video endoscope. The development of such a catheter endoscope has been an important challenge to realize the technique’s benefits in clinical settings. We successfully implemented a prototype PAE system that has a 3.2-mm diameter and 2.5-m long catheter section. As the instrument’s flexible shaft and scanning tip are fully encapsulated in a plastic catheter, it easily fits within the 3.7-mm diameter instrument channel of a clinical video endoscope. Here, we demonstrate the intra-instrument channel workability and in vivo animal imaging capability of the PAE system.
We present a generic sub-diffraction-limited imaging method – photobleaching imprinting microscopy (PIM) – for biological fluorescence imaging. A lateral resolution of 110 nm was measured, more than a two-fold improvement over the optical diffraction limit. Unlike other super-resolution imaging techniques, PIM does not require complicated illumination modules or specific fluorescent dyes. PIM is expected to facilitate the conversion of super-resolution imaging into a routine lab tool, making it accessible to a much broader biological research community.
Measuring intracellular temperature is critical to understanding many cellular functions but still remains challenging. Here we present a technique – fluorescence-assisted photoacoustic thermometry (FAPT) – for intracellular temperature mapping applications. To demonstrate FAPT, we monitored the intracellular temperature distribution of HeLa cells with sub-degree (0.7 °C) temperature resolution and sub-micron (0.23 μm) spatial resolution at a sampling rate of 1 kHz. Compared to traditional fluorescence-based methods, FAPT features the unique capability of transforming a regular fluorescence probe into a concentration- and excitation-independent temperature sensor, bringing a large collection of commercially available generic fluorescent probes into the realm of intracellular temperature sensing.
We studied the phenomenon of photothermal bleaching — a gradual reduction of contrast agent particles during repeated scans in photoacoustic microscopy. The dependence of the photothermal bleaching rate on the excitation pulse energy was determined while the laser focal diameter was held constant. Our results showed that, the dependence of the photothermal bleaching rate on the excitation pulse energy differed before and after the absorbers were raised to their melting point by the deposited laser energy. Based on this finding, we suggested an optimal excitation pulse energy, which balances the photothermal bleaching rate and signal amplitude, for time-lapse imaging applications.
The axial resolution of photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) can be enhanced by reducing the speed of sound within the imaging region of interest. This principle was demonstrated on a previously-reported PAM system, which utilized a 125 MHz ultrasonic transducer for signal detection and the Wiener deconvolution for signal processing. With sound slowed by silicone oil immersion, we have achieved a finest axial resolution of 5.8 μm for PAM, as validated by phantom experiments. The axial resolution was also enhanced in vivo when mouse ears injected with silicone oil were imaged. After injection of silicone oil, the blood vessels were resolved more clearly. When tissue-compatible low-speed liquids become available, this approach may find applications in PAM as well as in other imaging modalities, such as photoacoustic computed tomography and ultrasound imaging.
The scanning mechanism is a major technical focus in optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy. Flexible scanning access with fast scanning speed is desired to monitor biological and physiological dynamics with high temporal resolution. We developed random-access optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy (RA-OR-PAM) using a digital micromirror device (DMD). Each micromirror on the DMD can be independently controlled, allowing imaging of regions of interest with arbitrary user-selected shapes without extraneous information. A global structural image is first acquired, and the regions of interest are selected. The laser beam then scans these regions exclusively, resulting in a faster frame rate than in a conventional raster scan. This system can rapidly scan arbitrarily shaped regions of interest with a lateral resolution of 3.6 μm within a 40×40 μm2 imaging area, a size comparable to the focal spot size of a 50 MHz ultrasound transducer. We demonstrated the random-access ability of RA-OR-PAM by imaging a monolayer of red blood cells. This system was then used to monitor blood flow in vivo within user-selected capillaries in a mouse ear. By imaging only the capillary of interest, the frame rate was increased by up to 13.3 times.
A novel method – photoacoustic recovery after photothermal bleaching (PRAP) – is proposed and implemented to study particle dynamics and medium properties at the micron scale via photoacoustic imaging. PRAP is an intuitive way to visualize as well as quantify dynamic processes in many kinds of media. We demonstrate PRAP first in a phantom study, and then in live cells. PRAP provides high signal-to-noise ratio imaging with minimal bleaching-induced artifacts during the recovery stage, ideal for monitoring the diffusive and kinetic phenomena inside a cell.
We present an innovative method, photoacoustic recovery after photothermal bleaching (PRAP), for studying particle dynamics at micron scale via photoacoustic imaging. As an intuitive way to visualize and quantify dynamic processes, PRAP is demonstrated first in a simple phantom study and then in a more complex measurement involving live cells. Compared with the conventional fluorescence-based approach, PRAP provides high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) imaging with minimal bleaching-induced artifacts during the recovery stage, ideal for monitoring the diffusive and kinetic processes inside a cell.
We have developed a new photoacoustic endoscopic probe specifically designed for human urogenital imaging. The
endoscopic probe uses a parabolic mirror-based mechanical scanning mechanism, providing an angular field of view of 270°. And it has a rigid, dome shaped end section for smooth cavity introduction. Here we introduce the new
endoscope’s design and imaging principle, and present experimental results validating its in vivo imaging ability.
Like ultrasound endoscopy, photoacoustic endoscopy (PAE) could become a valuable addition to clinical practice due
to its deep imaging capability. Results from our recent in vivo transesophageal endoscopic imaging study on rabbits
demonstrate the technique’s capability to image major organs in the mediastinal region, such as the lung, trachea, and
cardiovascular systems. Here, we present various features from photoacoustic images from the mediastinal region of
several rabbits and discuss possible clinical contributions of this technique and directions of future technology
A novel photoacoustic thermometric method is presented for simultaneously imaging cells and sensing their temperature.
With 3 seconds per frame imaging speed, a temperature resolution of 0.2 °C was achieved in a photo-thermal cell heating
experiment. Compared to other approaches, the photoacoustic thermometric method has the advantage of not requiring
custom-developed temperature-sensitive biosensors. This feature should facilitate the conversion of single-cell
thermometry into a routine lab tool and make it accessible to a much broader biological research community.
We performed a photoacoustic endoscopic imaging study of melanoma tumor growth in a nude rat in vivo. After
inducing the tumor at the colorectal wall of the animal, we monitored the tumor development in situ by using a
photoacoustic endoscopic system. This paper introduces our experimental method for tumor inoculation and presents
imaging results showing the morphological changes of the blood vasculature near the tumor region according to the
tumor progress. Our study could provide insights for future studies on tumor development in small animals.
A novel photoacoustic thermometric method is presented for simultaneously imaging cells and sensing their temperature. With three-seconds-per-frame imaging speed, a temperature resolution of 0.2°C was achieved in a photo-thermal cell heating experiment. Compared to other approaches, the photoacoustic thermometric method has the advantage of not requiring custom-developed temperature-sensitive biosensors. This feature should facilitate the conversion of single-cell thermometry into a routine lab tool and make it accessible to a much broader biological research community.