The International Photoacoustic Standardisation Consortium (IPASC) emerged from SPIE 2018, established to drive consensus on photoacoustic system testing. As photoacoustic imaging (PAI) matures from research laboratories into clinical trials, it is essential to establish best-practice guidelines for photoacoustic image acquisition, analysis and reporting, and a standardised approach for technical system validation. The primary goal of the IPASC is to create widely accepted phantoms for testing preclinical and clinical PAI systems. To achieve this, the IPASC has formed five working groups (WGs). The first and second WGs have defined optical and acoustic properties, suitable materials, and configurations of photoacoustic image quality phantoms. These phantoms consist of a bulk material embedded with targets to enable quantitative assessment of image quality characteristics including resolution and sensitivity across depth. The third WG has recorded details such as illumination and detection configurations of PAI instruments available within the consortium, leading to proposals for system-specific phantom geometries. This PAI system inventory was also used by WG4 in identifying approaches to data collection and sharing. Finally, WG5 investigated means for phantom fabrication, material characterisation and PAI of phantoms. Following a pilot multi-centre phantom imaging study within the consortium, the IPASC settled on an internationally agreed set of standardised recommendations and imaging procedures. This leads to advances in: (1) quantitative comparison of PAI data acquired with different data acquisition and analysis methods; (2) provision of a publicly available reference data set for testing new algorithms; and (3) technical validation of new and existing PAI devices across multiple centres.
The contrast in photoacoustic (PA) imaging depends on the mechanical and elastic properties of the tissue, as well as on his optical absorption and scatter properties. Thanks to these futures, this novel modality could offer additional specificity compared to conventional ultrasound techniques, being able to reveal the signal of absorbing materials and chomophores, e.g. endogenous molecules like haemoglobin or specific near infrared dyes or plasmonic contrast agents. The development of semi-quantitative protocols for the assessment of the contrast enhancement, is one of the key aspect of the ongoing research, that could open new routes to the use of PA imaging for a variety of applications in preclinical research of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In this work, we designed and tested a tissue mimicking polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) phantom for photoacoustic applications, with tailored biomechanical/optical and geometrical properties. In order to modulate the light fluence and penetration, that remains one of the major challenge for this technique, we added titanium dioxide and black ink, rendering the optical absorption and scattering coefficients similar to those of biological tissues. The PDMS phantom can become a particularly promising tool in the field of photoacoustics for the evaluation of the performance of a PA system and as a model of the structure of vascularized soft tissues.
Photoacoustic imaging is an emerging technique. Although commercially available photoacoustic imaging systems currently exist, the technology is still in its infancy. Therefore, the design of stable phantoms is essential to achieve semiquantitative evaluation of the performance of a photoacoustic system and can help optimize the properties of contrast agents. We designed and developed a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) phantom with exceptionally fine geometry; the phantom was tested using photoacoustic experiments loaded with the standard indocyanine green dye and compared to an agar phantom pattern through polyethylene glycol-gold nanorods. The linearity of the photoacoustic signal with the nanoparticle number was assessed. The signal-to-noise ratio and contrast were employed as image quality parameters, and enhancements of up to 50 and up to 300%, respectively, were measured with the PDMS phantom with respect to the agar one. A tissue-mimicking (TM)-PDMS was prepared by adding TiO2 and India ink; photoacoustic tests were performed in order to compare the signal generated by the TM-PDMS and the biological tissue. The PDMS phantom can become a particularly promising tool in the field of photoacoustics for the evaluation of the performance of a PA system and as a model of the structure of vascularized soft tissues.
Photoacoustic imaging is emerging as a bioimaging technique. The development of contrast agents extend the potential towards novel application. The design of stable phantoms is needed to achieve a semi-quantitative evaluation of the performance of contrast agents.
The aim of this study was to investigate the PA signal generated from gold nanorods (GNRs) loaded in custom made phantoms. VevoLAZR (VisualSonics Inc., Toronto) was used with custom made agar phantom, with 5 parallel polyethylene tubes (with 0.58mm internal and 0.99mm external diameter), and a PDMS phantom, with six parallel channels with sizes from 50 μm to 500 μm, loaded with two different types of GNRs: PEGGNRs (53nm length and 11nm axial diameter, plasmon resonance at 840nm, 87nM (15mM Au equivalent)); and gold nanorods (NPZ) coated in a dense layer of hydrophilic polymers by Nanopartz Inc., Loveland, CO (41nm length and 10nm axial diameter, plasmon resonance at 808nm, 83 nM (14mM Au equivalent)).
The absorption spectra acquired with the PA system and the spectrophotometer were compared. The reproducibility and stability of the PA signal were evaluated at different dilutions. The dynamic variation of the PA signal was evaluated as function of the number of the GNRs. The SNR and the contrast were measured across the range of concentrations studied. The custom made agar phantom demonstrated suitable for the characterization of PA contrast agents such as PEG-GNRs and NPZ. The PDMS phantom is promising in the field of photoacoustics, therefore future works will conducted exploiting its precise and controlled geometry.
Gold nanorods (GNRs) offer a tunable optical absorption in the near infra-red wavelength region due to their plasmon resonance, which results in strong photoacoustic (PA) signal and make them suitable as contrast agent by means of PA imaging. The aim of this study was to examine the performance of synthesized polyethilene glicol (PEG)-GNRs as contrast agent for in vivo PA imaging and to evaluate their accumulation and distribution real time. Two-three month old FVB female mice were enrolled for the study, a bolus of 200μL of synthesized PEG-GNRs (53 nm length and 11 nm axial diameter, plasmon resonance at 840 nm, 1 mM Au concentration) solution was injected intravenously and detected with PA imaging. The accumulation of GNRs in the spleen was studied by means of the amplitude dynamic variation of the PA signal during time. GNRs contrast was clearly distinguished from endogenous background thanks to the nanoparticle spectroscopic specificity. Our results suggest that PA imaging could allow an efficient and noninvasive tool for in vivo detection of GNRs content and for the assessment of the kinetic parameters in target organs. The coregistration of μ-ultrasound and PA imaging is crucial for the real time evaluation of the GNRs distribution in different organs.