Review

Photoacoustic Tomography: In Vivo Imaging from Organelles to Organs

Science  23 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6075, pp. 1458-1462
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216210

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Abstract

Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) can create multiscale multicontrast images of living biological structures ranging from organelles to organs. This emerging technology overcomes the high degree of scattering of optical photons in biological tissue by making use of the photoacoustic effect. Light absorption by molecules creates a thermally induced pressure jump that launches ultrasonic waves, which are received by acoustic detectors to form images. Different implementations of PAT allow the spatial resolution to be scaled with the desired imaging depth in tissue while a high depth-to-resolution ratio is maintained. As a rule of thumb, the achievable spatial resolution is on the order of 1/200 of the desired imaging depth, which can reach up to 7 centimeters. PAT provides anatomical, functional, metabolic, molecular, and genetic contrasts of vasculature, hemodynamics, oxygen metabolism, biomarkers, and gene expression. We review the state of the art of PAT for both biological and clinical studies and discuss future prospects.

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