Polarized light has many applications in biomedical imaging. The interaction of a biological sample with polarized light reveals information about its biological composition, both structural and functional. The most comprehensive type of polarimetry analysis is to measure the Mueller matrix, a polarization transfer function that completely describes how a sample interacts with polarized light. However, determination of the Mueller matrix requires tissue analysis under many different states of polarized light; a time consuming and measurement intensive process. Here we address this limitation with a new rapid polarimetry system, and use this polarimetry platform to investigate a variety of tissue changes associated with breast cancer.
We have recently developed a rapid polarimetry imaging platform based on four photoelastic modulators (PEMs). The PEMs generate fast polarization modulations that allow the complete sample Mueller matrix to be imaged over a large field of view, with no moving parts. This polarimetry system is then demonstrated to be sensitive to a variety of tissue changes that are relevant to breast cancer. Specifically, we show that changes in depolarization can reveal tumor margins, and can differentiate between viable and necrotic breast cancer metastasized to the lymph nodes. Furthermore, the polarimetric property of linear retardance (related to birefringence) is dependent on collagen organization in the extracellular matrix. These findings indicate that our polarimetry platform may have future applications in fields such as breast cancer diagnosis, improving the speed and efficacy of intraoperative pathology, and providing prognostic information that may be beneficial for guiding treatment.
Polarized light has many applications in biomedical imaging. The interaction of a biological sample with polarized light reveals information about its composition, both structural and functional. For example, the polarimetry-derived metric of linear retardance (birefringence) is dependent on tissue structural organization (anisotropy) and can be used to diagnose myocardial infarct; circular birefringence (optical rotation) can measure glucose concentrations. The most comprehensive type of polarimetry analysis is to measure the Mueller matrix, a polarization transfer function that completely describes how a sample interacts with polarized light. To derive this 4x4 matrix it is necessary to observe how a tissue interacts with different polarizations. A well-suited approach for tissue polarimetry is to use photoelastic modulators (PEMs), which dynamically modulate the polarization of light. Previously, we have demonstrated a rapid time-gated Stokes imaging system that is capable of characterizing the state of polarized light (the Stokes vector) over a large field, after interacting with any turbid media. This was accomplished by synchronizing CCD camera acquisition times relative to two PEMs using a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). Here, we extend this technology to four PEMs, yielding a polarimetry system that is capable of rapidly measuring the complete sample Mueller matrix over a large field of view, with no moving parts and no beam steering. We describe the calibration procedure and evaluate the accuracy of the measurements. Results are shown for tissue-mimicking phantoms, as well as initial biological samples.