In vivo optical imaging in the near-infrared (NIR) spectrum plays a significant role in cardiovascular research. To this end, non-invasive optical imaging of processes implicated in cardiovascular disease has been reported. For instance, visualization of macrophage infiltration using fluorescent nanoparticles and investigations of monocyte recruitment for infarct healing have been performed using Fluorescence Molecular Tomography (FMT). Clinical translation strategies include intravascular molecular imaging approaches with a NIR fluorescence (NIRF) catheter as a highly promising method for detecting biologic activity in atherosclerotic plaques. However, optical imaging methods are intrinsically limited in performance by tissue scattering, which degrades the spatial resolution and overall accuracy at increased penetration depths. Optoacoustic imaging approaches offer an efficient way of high resolution optical imaging through dense tissues. Furthermore, by applying multiple excitation wavelengths and tomographic signal detection, the Multi-Spectral Optoacoustic Tomography (MSOT) methods have been shown to resolve oxygenated and deoxygenated states of hemoglobin and deliver cross-sectional anatomical images of the mouse heart anatomy. In addition, MSOT detection of molecular imaging agents relevant to cardiovascular disease was demonstrated in murine hearts.
The ultimate goal of this team is to establish a novel high performance MSOT-based imaging platform tailored for realtime volumetric cardiovascular imaging in rodents. It will be able to simultaneously capture cardiac morphology, function and specific biological and molecular aspects of the heart disease using molecular nanosensors.