We report chemometric wide-field fluorescence microscopy for imaging the spatial distribution and concentration of endogenous fluorophores in thin tissue sections. Nonnegative factorization aided by spatial diversity is used to learn both the spectral signature and the spatial distribution of endogenous fluorophores from microscopic fluorescence color images obtained under broadband excitation and detection. The absolute concentration map of individual fluorophores is derived by comparing the fluorescence from “pure” fluorophores under the identical imaging condition following the identification of the fluorescence species by its spectral signature. This method is then demonstrated by characterizing the concentration map of endogenous fluorophores (including tryptophan, elastin, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and flavin adenine dinucleotide) for lung tissue specimens. The absolute concentrations of these fluorophores are all found to decrease significantly from normal, perilesional, to cancerous (squamous cell carcinoma) tissue. Discriminating tissue types using the absolute fluorophore concentration is found to be significantly more accurate than that achievable with the relative fluorescence strength. Quantification of fluorophores in terms of the absolute concentration map is also advantageous in eliminating the uncertainties due to system responses or measurement details, yielding more biologically relevant data, and simplifying the assessment of competing imaging approaches.
Endogenous fluorescence is a powerful technique for probing both structure and function of tissue. We show that enabling wide-field fluorescence microscopy with chemometrics can significantly enhance the performance of tissue diagnosis with endogenous fluorescence. The spatial distribution and absolute concentration of fluorophores is uncovered with non-negative factorization aided by the spatial diversity from microscopic autofluorescence color images. Fluorescence quantification in terms of its absolute concentration map avoids issues dependent on specific measurement approach or systems and yields biologically meaningful data. The standardization of endogenous fluorescence in terms of absolute concentration will facilitate its translation to the clinics and simplifies the assessment of competing methods relating to tissue fluorescence.