Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) microscopy provides high-resolution structural imaging of the corneal stroma without the need of labelling techniques. This powerful tool has never been applied to living human eyes so far. Here, we present a new compact SHG microscope specifically developed to image the structural organization of the corneal lamellae in living healthy human volunteers. The research prototype incorporates a long-working distance dry objective that allows non-contact three-dimensional SHG imaging of the cornea. Safety assessment and effectiveness of the system were firstly tested in ex-vivo fresh eyes. The maximum average power of the used illumination laser was 20 mW, more than 10 times below the maximum permissible exposure (according to ANSI Z136.1-2000). The instrument was successfully employed to obtain non-contact and non-invasive SHG of the living human eye within well-established light safety limits. This represents the first recording of in vivo SHG images of the human cornea using a compact multiphoton microscope. This might become an important tool in Ophthalmology for early diagnosis and tracking ocular pathologies.
The response to polarization of second-harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy images of samples with different collagen distributions (quasialigned, partially organized, and nonorganized) has been analyzed. A linear decay relationship between the external arrangement and polarization sensitivity was found. SHG signal from nonorganized samples presented a large structural dispersion and a weak dependence with incident polarization. Polarization dependence is also associated with the internal organization of the collagen fibers, directly related to the ratio of hyperpolarizabilities ρ. This parameter can experimentally be computed from the modulation of the SHG signal. The results show that both external and internal collagen structures are closely related. This provides a tool to obtain information of internal properties from the polarimetric response of the external spatial distribution of collagen, which might be useful in clinical diagnosis of pathologies related to changes in collagen structure.
A polarimetric second harmonic generation (SHG) microscope was used to analyze the dependence between polarization and SHG signal from collagen-based samples. A theoretical model was also developed to investigate the SHG intensity as a function of different polarization states for a set of quasiparallel fibers. Numerical simulations were compared to experimental SHG intensity values and a fairly good agreement was found. Linear polarized light produced periodical changes in the emitted SHG signal with a maximum of intensity corresponding to polarization parallel to the main orientation of the fibers, regardless the ratio of hyperpolarizabilities, ρ. A similar behavior was found for elliptical states located along a vertical meridian on the Poincaré sphere (i.e., null azimuth) although the modulation of the SHG signal was different. Our numerical calculations described a dramatic change in this regular trend when ρ changed from positive to negative values. Moreover, we provide an experimental method (based on the analysis of the modulation of the SHG signal) to determine the value of the ratio ρ and, consequently, to obtain information about the internal organization of the collagen fibers.