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Catching cancer's spread by watching hemoglobin

important for monitoring tumors, because the oxygenation state around cancerous tissue and the size and density of blood vessels around the tumor can provide a lot of information about the progression of a tumor and its response to anti-cancer drugs.

In the technique, two lasers at different wavelengths (colors) send ultra-short pulses (lasting only a femtosecond, or a quadrillionth of a second) on a blood vessel. The hemoglobin absorbs light from both of these lasers at the same time, in a process known as "two-photon absorption," and then gives off signals that can be detected to build up an image. One "pump" laser boosts (excites) hemoglobin molecules to a higher energy state. The other "probe" laser monitors the hemoglobin after the excitation. Sometimes the pump laser is off and there is no two-photon absorption. By subtracting the signal from the "off" state from the "on" state (when two-photon absorption occurs), the researchers remove unwanted scattered light from the data and can get high-quality signals from hemoglobin molecules.

To map out the hemoglobin distribution, the researchers scan laser beams across the sample, a process that then reveals the outlines and contours of blood vessels. By taking images at different depths and stacking these images layer by layer, the researchers can reconstruct 3-D images of blood vessels.

A major advantage of the technique is that it is "label-free," meaning it does not require the addition of fluorescing molecules but rather relies on the inherent light-absorbing properties of hemoglobin. While the technique has been demonstrated in vitro (by excising tissue samples and imaging the vessels on a glass dish), imaging in the living body is possible either for vessels up to a millimeter below the surface or through the use of minimally invasive probes, being developed in various labs, that can be inserted in the body.

Meeting Paper: CTuF1, "Two-Photon Absorption Imaging of H
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Source:Optical Society of America


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