Photoacoustic microscopy of nanoparticles in cells and tissues
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Molecular photoacoustic imaging is an exciting new field that promises to visualize molecular indicators of disease. The objective of this dissertation is to progress molecular imaging by providing a photoacoustic microscopy platform to better validate in vivo molecular photoacoustic imaging, diagnose disease, and study fundamental photoacoustic processes. Initially, a custom photoacoustic microscope was developed to provide high-sensitivity and high-resolution of both endogenous and exogenous contrast agents in thin cell or tissue samples. After characterization, the photoacoustc microscope was first used to image the hemoglobin distribution in the spleen and liver. The photoacoustic microscope was then used to image nanoparticles in injured and diseased cell and tissues samples. These images can be used for in vivo photoacoustic image validation or, independently, as a diagnostic tool for disease. To enhance the utility of photoacoustic microscopy, a quantitation technique was developed for nanoparticles in cells and tissues. Quantitative photoacoustic imaging has the potential to replace mass spectrometry and histology for a wide array of molecular imaging and targeting studies. Finally, photoacoustic microscopy was used to study the nonlinear dependence of the photoacoustic pressure with laser fluence of nanoparticle-loaded cells. New discoveries about the nonlinear dependence with nanoparticle concentration and cell type are presented. These new discoveries may provide the framework for a new type of photoacoustic imaging with contrast that is cell-type specific. Overall, the work described in this dissertation can be used to improve diagnosis and accelerate clinical translation of new and emerging molecular imaging techniques.