We report a tissue diagnostic system which combines two complementary techniques of time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (TR-LIFS) and ultrasonic backscatter microscopy (UBM). TR-LIFS evaluates the biochemical composition of tissue, while UBM provides tissue microanatomy and enables localization of the region of diagnostic interest. The TR-LIFS component consists of an optical fiber-based time-domain apparatus including a spectrometer, gated multichannel plate photomultiplier, and fast digitizer. It records the fluorescence with high sensitivity (nM concentration range) and time resolution as low as 300 ps. The UBM system consists of a transducer, pulser, receiving circuit, and positioning stage. The transducer used here is 45 MHz, unfocused, with axial and lateral resolutions 38 and 200 μm. Validation of the hybrid system and ultrasonic and spectroscopic data coregistration were conducted both in vitro (tissue phantom) and ex vivo (atherosclerotic tissue specimens of human aorta). Standard histopathological analysis of tissue samples was used to validate the UBM-TRLIFS data. Current results have demonstrated that spatially correlated UBM and TR-LIFS data provide complementary characterization of both morphology (necrotic core and calcium deposits) and biochemistry (collagen, elastin, and lipid features) of the atherosclerotic plaques at the same location. Thus, a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy with ultrasound imaging would allow for better identification of features associated with tissue pathologies. Current design and performance of the hybrid system suggests potential applications in clinical diagnosis of atherosclerotic plaque.
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