Contrast Agent for Optical Coherence Tomography Improves Imaging of Tissues, Vessels

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging technique that allows ophthalmologists to view the eye’s blood vessels, to study the structure of tissues in various clinical and scientific applications. Though this technology is already widely used, there’s been a constant demand to improve its imaging resolution.

Researchers at Stanford have just added an interesting ingredient, namely nano-scale gold prisms, which can be injected into the bloodstream to significantly boost the quality of optical coherence tomography. The effect is so substantial that molecular-level details are able to be distinguished, potentially resulting in a combination technique that would deliver structural and functional imaging tissues and blood vessels.

The researchers envision that, for example, cancer cells could be spotted and their components analyzed using the new method with ease and at resolutions previously impossible.

The nanoprisms, which serve as an OCT contrast agent, have been already tested in the laboratory to image blood vessels and melanoma tumors within the ears of mice. When OCT was used with and without the nanoprisms, the difference in detail was striking.

“Our goal is to take this existing technology, enhance it, and expose it to the whole world of molecular imaging,” said Adam de la Zerda, one of the researchers involved in the study. “So instead of just being able to see the anatomy, we’d also able to start asking questions about its molecular status, like if tumor cells show signs of metastases.”


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