Seeing through the Skin: Photoacoustic Tomography of Skin Vasculature and Beyond.
Skin diseases are the most common human diseases and manifest in distinct structural and functional changes to skin tissue components such as basal cells, vasculature, and pigmentation. Although biopsy is the standard practice for skin disease diagnosis, it is not sufficient to provide in vivo status of the skin and highly depends on the timing of diagnosis. Noninvasive imaging technologies that can provide structural and functional tissue information in real time would be invaluable for skin disease diagnosis and treatment evaluation. Among the modern medical imaging technologies, photoacoustic (PA) tomography (PAT) shows great promise as an emerging optical imaging modality with high spatial resolution, high imaging speed, deep penetration depth, rich contrast, and inherent sensitivity to functional and molecular information. Over the last decade, PAT has undergone an explosion in technical development and biomedical applications. Particularly, PAT has attracted increasing attention in skin disease diagnosis, providing structural, functional, metabolic, molecular, and histological information. In this concise review, we introduce the principles and imaging capability of various PA skin imaging technologies. We highlight the representative applications in the past decade with a focus on imaging skin vasculature and melanoma. We also envision the critical technical developments necessary to further accelerate the translation of PAT technologies to fundamental skin research and clinical impacts.