The human respiratory system is protected by a defense mechanism termed mucociliary clearance (MCC). Deficiency in MCC leads to respiratory obstruction and pulmonary infection, which often are the main causes of morbidity and mortality in diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studying key parameters that govern MCC, including ciliary beat frequency, velocity and volume of airway mucus transport, as well as periciliary liquid layer thickness are therefore of great importance in understanding human respiratory health. However, direct, in vivo visualization of ciliary function and MCC has been challenging, hindering the diagnosis of disease pathogenesis and mechanistic evaluation of novel therapeutics.
Our laboratory has previously developed a 1-µm resolution optical coherence tomography method, termed Micro-OCT, which is a unique tool for visualizing the spatiotemporal features of ciliary function and MCC. We have previously described the design of a flexible 2.5 mm Micro-OCT probe that is compatible with standard flexible bronchoscopes. This device utilizes a common-path interferometer and annular sample arm apodization to attain a sharply focused spot over an extended depth of focus.
Here, we present the most recent iteration of this probe and demonstrate its imaging performance in a mouse trachea tissue culture model. In addition, we have developed an ergonomic assembly for attaching the probe to a standard bronchoscope. The ergonomic assembly fixes the Micro-OCT probe’s within the bronchoscope and contains a means transducing linear motion through the sheath so that the Micro-OCT beam can be scanned along the trachea. We have tested the performance of these devices for Micro-OCT imaging in an anatomically correct model of the human airway. Future studies are planned to use this technology to conduct Micro-OCT in human trachea and bronchi in vivo.