Photoacoustic Imaging and Sensing: A New Way to See the Eye

Randolph D Glickman
Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2021 January 21
Purpose: Photoacoustics (optoacoustics) is a hybrid technology utilizing light excitation of acoustic responses in targets of interest. It has found numerous applications in biomedicine, including eye research, because of its ability to report both morphological and functional data about the interrogated tissue. This presentation will give an overview of current applications. Methods: Wavelength-dependent absorption of light in a tissue chromophore causes local heating, leading to a thermoelastic expansion-contraction cycle. If nanosecond pulses of light are used to excite this process, the resulting pressure wave is an ultrasound signal propagating through the tissue and detectable at the tissue surface. This is highly advantageous because of the known properties of ultrasound propagation in tissue and the ability to use standard, medical ultrasound equipment for detection. The time of arrival and amplitude of ultrasound signals provide information about the location and nature of the absorber. Results: Due to the wavelength dependence of the photoacoustic response, functional and physiological applications are possible. For example, retinal oximetry can be determined from the different optical absorption properties of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin. Multispectral imaging of the posterior segment can identify pigments such as melanin or lipofuscin or the nature of foreign bodies. The technique can be combined with other imaging modalities such as ultrasound and optical coherence tomography to produce high-resolution images of retinal structures along with functional information. Conclusion: Photoacoustic technology is a powerful noninvasive tool for ocular research and to study ocular morphology, fundamental physiological parameters, cellular responses, and molecular expression.

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