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Published December 2008 | Published
Journal Article Open

Prospects of photoacoustic tomography


Commercially available high-resolution three-dimensional optical imaging modalities—including confocal microscopy, two-photon microscopy, and optical coherence tomography—have fundamentally impacted biomedicine. Unfortunately, such tools cannot penetrate biological tissue deeper than the optical transport mean free path (∼1mm in the skin). Photoacoustictomography, which combines strong optical contrast and high ultrasonic resolution in a single modality, has broken through this fundamental depth limitation and achieved superdepth high-resolution optical imaging. In parallel, radio frequency-or microwave-induced thermoacoustic tomography is being actively developed to combine radio frequency or microwave contrast with ultrasonic resolution. In this Vision 20/20 article, the prospects of photoacoustictomography are envisaged in the following aspects: (1) photoacoustic microscopy of optical absorption emerging as a mainstream technology, (2) melanoma detection using photoacoustic microscopy, (3) photoacoustic endoscopy, (4) simultaneous functional and molecular photoacoustictomography, (5) photoacoustictomography of gene expression, (6) Doppler photoacoustictomography for flow measurement, (7) photoacoustictomography of metabolic rate of oxygen, (8) photoacoustic mapping of sentinel lymph nodes, (9) multiscale photoacoustic imagingin vivo with common signal origins, (10) simultaneous photoacoustic and thermoacoustic tomography of the breast, (11) photoacoustic and thermoacoustic tomography of the brain, and (12) low-background thermoacoustic molecular imaging.

Additional Information

© 2008 American Association of Physicists in Medicine. Received 8 August 2008; revised 10 October 2008; accepted for publication 15 October 2008; published 19 November 2008. This work is sponsored in part by National Institutes of Health Grant Nos. R01 EB000712 and R01 NS46214 (Bioengineering Research Partnership). L.W. has a financial interest in Endra, Inc., which, however, did not support this work.

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