Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a powerful biomedical imaging technology that relies on the coherent detection of backscattered light to image tissue morphology in vivo. As a consequence, OCT is susceptible to coherent noise, known as speckle noise, which imposes significant limitations on its diagnostic capabilities. Here we show Speckle- Modulating OCT (SM-OCT), a method based purely on light manipulation, which can remove speckle noise, including noise originating from sample multiple back-scattering. SM-OCT accomplishes this by creating and averaging an unlimited number of scans with uncorrelated speckle patterns, without compromising spatial resolution. The uncorrelated speckle patterns are created by scrambling the phase of the light with sub-resolution features using a moving ground-glass diffuser in the optical path of the sample arm. This method can be implemented in existing OCTs as a relatively low-cost add-on. SM-OCT speckle statistics follow the expected decrease in speckle contrast as the number of averaged scans increases. Within a scattering phantom, SM-OCT provides a 2.5-fold increase in effective resolution compared to conventional OCT. Using SM-OCT, we reveal small structures in the tissues of living animals, such as the inner stromal structure of a live mouse cornea, the fine structures inside the mouse pinna, and sweat ducts and Meissner’s corpuscle in the human fingertip skin – features that are otherwise obscured by speckle noise when using conventional OCT or OCT with current state of the art speckle reduction methods. Our results indicate that SM-OCT has the potential to improve the current diagnostic and intra-operative capabilities of OCT.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging of living subjects offers millimeters depth of penetration into tissue while maintaining high spatial resolution. However, because most molecular biomarkers do not produce inherent OCT contrast signals, exogenous contrast agents must be employed to achieve molecular imaging. Here we demonstrate that microbeads (μBs) can be used as effective contrast agents to target cellular biomarkers in lymphatic vessels and can be detected by OCT using a phase variance algorithm. We applied this technique to image the molecular dynamics of lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1 (LYVE-1) in vivo, which showed significant down-regulation during tissue inflammation.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is well-suited to study in vivo dynamics of blood circulation and lymphatic flow because of the technique’s combination of rapid image acquisition, micron spatial resolution, and penetration depth in turbid tissues. However, OCT has been historically constrained by a dearth of contrast agents that are readily distinguished from the strong scattering intrinsic to biological tissues. In this study, we demonstrate large gold nanorods (LGNRs) as optimized contrast agents for OCT. LGNRs produce 32-fold greater backscattering than GNRs previously tested for contrast-enhanced OCT. Furthermore, LGNRs exhibit 110-fold stronger spectral signal than conventional GNRs when coupled with custom spectral detection algorithms. This signal enhancement enables picomolar OCT detection sensitivity in vivo and single-particle detection against optically-clear backgrounds. Moreover, the ability to synthesize LGNRs with tunable spectral peaks provides a viable platform for multiplexed imaging studies. To explore the advantages of LGNRs as OCT contrast agents, we implemented them for noninvasive 3D imaging of tumor blood supply and active lymphatic drainage in mice. Spectral detection of LGNRs enabled 100% improvement in imaging depth for detecting microvasculature (vessels ∼ 20 μm in diameter) in U87MG glioblastoma xenografts in mice pinnae. We also demonstrated our approach’s ability to map the spatial dependence of lymph drainage and flow directionality within lymphatic capillaries. Using LGNRs with distinct spectra, we further identified the functional states of individual lymphatic valves in vivo. Thus, this approach provides a powerful new platform for functional imaging that may be extended for future molecular imaging studies with OCT.
In this study, we developed and applied highly-scattering large gold nanorods (LGNRs) and custom spectral detection
algorithms for high sensitivity contrast-enhanced optical coherence tomography (OCT). We were able to detect LGNRs
at a concentration as low as 50 pM in blood. We used this approach for noninvasive 3D imaging of blood vessels deep in
solid tumors in living mice. Additionally, we demonstrated multiplexed imaging of spectrally-distinct LGNRs that
enabled observations of functional drainage in lymphatic networks. This method, which we call MOZART, provides a
platform for molecular imaging and characterization of tissue noninvasively at cellular resolution.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a noninvasive interferometric imaging modality providing anatomical information at depths of millimeters and a resolution of micrometers. Conventional OCT images limit our knowledge to anatomical structures alone, without any contrast enhancement. Therefore, here we have, for the first time, optimized an OCT-based contrast-enhanced imaging system for imaging single cells and blood vessels in vivo inside the living mouse retina at subnanomolar sensitivity. We used bioconjugated gold nanorods (GNRs) as exogenous OCT contrast agents. Specifically, we used anti-mouse CD45 coated GNRs to label mouse leukocytes and mPEG-coated GNRs to determine sensitivity of GNR detection in vivo inside mice retinae. We corroborated OCT observations with hyperspectral dark-field microscopy of formalin-fixed histological sections. Our results show that mouse leukocytes that otherwise do not produce OCT contrast can be labeled with GNRs leading to significant OCT intensity equivalent to a 0.5 nM GNR solution. Furthermore, GNRs injected intravenously can be detected inside retinal blood vessels at a sensitivity of ∼0.5 nM, and GNR-labeled cells injected intravenously can be detected inside retinal capillaries by enhanced OCT contrast. We envision the unprecedented resolution and sensitivity of functionalized GNRs coupled with OCT to be adopted for longitudinal studies of retinal disorders.