KEYWORDS: Luminescence, Fluorescence resonance energy transfer, In vivo imaging, Data modeling, Picosecond phenomena, In vitro testing, Error analysis, Resonance energy transfer, Imaging systems, Fluorescence lifetime imaging
Fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) aims at quantifying the exponential decay rate of fluorophores to yield lifetime maps over the imaged sample. When combined with Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), the technique can be used to indirectly sense interactions at the nanoscale such as protein–protein interactions, protein–DNA interactions, and protein conformational changes. In the case of FLIM-FRET, the fluorescence intensity decays are fitted to a biexponential model in order to estimate the lifetime and fractional amplitude coefficients of each component of the population of the donor fluorophore (quenched and nonquenched). Numerous time data points, also called temporal or time gates, are typically employed for accurately estimating the model parameters, leading to lengthy acquisition times and significant computational demands. This work investigates the effect of the number and location of time gates on model parameter estimation accuracy. A detailed model of a FLIM-FRET imaging system is used for the investigation, and the simulation outcomes are validated with in vitro and in vivo experimental data. In all cases investigated, it is found that 10 equally spaced time gates allow robust estimation of model-based parameters with accuracy similar to that of full temporal datasets (90 gates).
Three-dimensional imaging of thick tissue constructs is one of the main challenges in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Optical methods are the most promising as they offer noninvasive, fast, and inexpensive solutions. Herein, we report the use of mesoscopic fluorescence molecular tomography (MFMT) to image function and structure of thick bioprinted tissue hosted in a 3-mm-thick bioreactor. Collagen-based tissue assembled in this study contains two vascular channels formed by green fluorescent protein- and mCherry-expressing cells. Transfected live cell imaging enables us to image function, whereas Flash Red fluorescent bead perfusion into the vascular channel allows us to image structure. The MFMT optical reconstructions are benchmarked with classical microscopy techniques. MFMT and wide-field fluorescence microscopy data match within 92% in area and 84% in location, validating the accuracy of MFMT reconstructions. Our results demonstrate that MFMT is a well-suited imaging modality for fast, longitudinal, functional imaging of thick, and turbid tissue engineering constructs.