Non-invasive photoacoustic computed tomography of rat heart anatomy and function

Author(s): Li Lin, Xin Tong, Susana Cavallero, Yide Zhang, Shuai Na, Rui Cao, Tzung K. Hsiai & Lihong V. Wang


Complementary to mainstream cardiac imaging modalities for preclinical research, photoacoustic computed tomography (PACT) can provide functional optical contrast with high imaging speed and resolution. However, PACT has not been demonstrated to reveal the dynamics of whole cardiac anatomy or vascular system without surgical procedure (thoracotomy) for tissue penetration. Here, we achieved non-invasive imaging of rat hearts using the recently developed three-dimensional PACT (3D-PACT) platform, demonstrating the regulated illumination and detection schemes to reduce the effects of optical attenuation and acoustic distortion through the chest wall; thereby, enabling unimpeded visualization of the cardiac anatomy and intracardiac hemodynamics following rapidly scanning the heart within 10 s. We further applied 3D-PACT to reveal distinct cardiac structural and functional changes among the healthy, hypertensive, and obese rats, with optical contrast to uncover differences in cardiac chamber size, wall thickness, and hemodynamics. Accordingly, 3D-PACT provides high imaging speed and nonionizing penetration to capture the whole heart for diagnosing the animal models, holding promises for clinical translation to cardiac imaging of human neonates.