16 March 2018
We have developed a preclinical 3D imaging instrument integrating photoacoustic tomography and fluorescence (PAFT) addressing known deficiencies in sensitivity and spatial resolution of the individual imaging components. PAFT is designed for simultaneous acquisition of photoacoustic and fluorescence orthogonal projections at each rotational position of a biological object, enabling direct registration of the two imaging modalities. Orthogonal photoacoustic projections are utilized to reconstruct large (21 cm3 ) volumes showing vascularized anatomical structures and regions of induced optical contrast with spatial resolution exceeding 100 µm. The major advantage of orthogonal fluorescence projections is significant reduction of background noise associated with transmitted or backscattered photons. The fluorescence imaging component of PAFT is used to boost detection sensitivity by providing low-resolution spatial constraint for the fluorescent biomarkers. PAFT performance characteristics were assessed by imaging optical and fluorescent contrast agents in tissue mimicking phantoms and in vivo. The proposed PAFT technology will enable functional and molecular volumetric imaging using fluorescent biomarkers, nanoparticles, and other photosensitive constructs mapped with high fidelity over robust anatomical structures, such as skin, central and peripheral vasculature, and internal organs.