Photoacoustic tomography of blood oxygenation: A mini review.
Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is a hybrid imaging modality that combines rich contrast of optical excitation and deep penetration of ultrasound detection. With its unique optical absorption contrast mechanism, PAT is inherently sensitive to the functional and molecular information of biological tissues, and thus has been widely used in preclinical and clinical studies. Among many functional capabilities of PAT, measuring blood oxygenation is arguably one of the most important applications, and has been widely performed in photoacoustic studies of brain functions, tumor hypoxia, wound healing, and cancer therapy. Yet, the complex optical conditions of biological tissues, especially the strong wavelength-dependent optical attenuation, have long hurdled the PAT measurement of blood oxygenation at depths beyond a few millimeters. A variety of PAT methods have been developed to improve the accuracy of blood oxygenation measurement, using novel laser illumination schemes, oxygen-sensitive fluorescent dyes, comprehensive mathematic models, or prior information provided by complementary imaging modalities. These novel methods have made exciting progress, while several challenges remain. This concise review aims to introduce the recent developments in photoacoustic blood oxygenation measurement, compare each method's advantages and limitations, highlight their representative applications, and discuss the remaining challenges for future advances.