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The emergence of optical elastography in biomedicine

Abstract

Optical elastography, the use of optics to characterize and map the mechanical properties of biological tissue, involves measuring the deformation of tissue in response to a load. Such measurements may be used to form an image of a mechanical property, often elastic modulus, with the resulting mechanical contrast complementary to the more familiar optical contrast. Optical elastography is experiencing new impetus in response to developments in the closely related fields of cell mechanics and medical imaging, aided by advances in photonics technology, and through probing the microscale between that of cells and whole tissues. Two techniques — optical coherence elastography and Brillouin microscopy — have recently shown particular promise for medical applications, such as in ophthalmology and oncology, and as new techniques in cell mechanics.

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Figure 1: Illustration of some emerging optical elastography techniques.
Figure 2: Compression OCE showing strain and elastic modulus imaging of excised human breast tissue.
Figure 3: Transient OCE of the eye.
Figure 4: Brillouin microscopy in cell mechanics and ophthalmology.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank their colleagues past and present who have contributed to the evolution of optical elastography; in particular, S. Adie, W. Allen, L. Chin, B. Quirk, A. Curatolo, S. Es'hagian, K. Kennedy, R. Kirk, R. McLaughlin and P. Munro. This work has been supported in part by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Western Australian Department of Health. P.W. thanks the Schrader Trust for a studentship.

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Correspondence to Brendan F. Kennedy or David D. Sampson.

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OncoRes Medical Pty Ltd has recently been established to develop optical elastography for applications in breast-conserving surgery. B.F.K. and D.D.S. have shares in OncoRes Medical and in future B.F.K. will be undertaking funded research for this company.

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Kennedy, B., Wijesinghe, P. & Sampson, D. The emergence of optical elastography in biomedicine. Nature Photon 11, 215–221 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2017.6

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