This study develops a percutaneous optical imaging system for tracking fluorescent reporter gene expression in vasculatures. We build a percutaneous optical imaging system that primarily comprised a 1.5-mm, semi-rigid, two-port optical probe. The performance of the optical probe is first tested in vitro with cell phantoms, and then the feasibility of the percutaneous optical imaging system is validated in vivo in eight femoral artery segments of two pigs. The green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene is locally delivered into four arterial segments, while saline is delivered to the four contralateral arterial segments as controls. The targeted arteries are localized using color Doppler, and thereafter the optical probe is positioned to the target arterial segments under ultrasound guidance. Optical imaging captures are obtained using different exposure times from 10 to 60 s. Subsequently, the GFP- and saline-targeted arteries are harvested for fluorescent microscopy confirmation. The percutaneous optical probe is successfully positioned at a distance approximately 2 mm from the targets in all eight arteries. The in-vivo imaging shows higher average signal intensity in GFP-treated arteries than in saline-treated arteries. This study demonstrates the potential using the percutaneous optical imaging system to monitor, in vivo, reporter gene expression from vasculatures.
Noninvasive tracking of vascular gene delivery and expression forms an important part of successfully implementing vascular gene therapy methods for the treatment of atherosclerosis and various cardiovascular disorders. While ultrasound and MR imaging have shown promise in the monitoring of gene delivery to the vasculatures, optical imaging has shown promise for tracking gene expression. Optical imaging using bioreporter genes like Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), Red Fluorescent Protein (RFP) and Luciferase to track and localize the therapeutic gene have helped provide an in vivo detection method of the process. The usage of GFP and RFP entails the detection of the fluorescent signal emitted by them on excitation with light of appropriate wavelength. We have developed a novel percutaneous optical imaging system that may be used for in vivo tracking vascular fluorescent gene expression in deep-seated vessels. It is based on the detection of the fluorescent signal emitted from GFP tagged cells. This phantom study was carried out to investigate the performance of the optical imaging system and gain insights into its performance record and study improvisation possibilities.