Evaluation of optical reflectance techniques for imaging of alveolar structure

Carolin I. Unglert, Eman Namati, William C. Warger, Linbo Liu, Hongki Yoo, Dongkyun Kang, Brett E. Bouma, Guillermo J. Tearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional (3-D) visualization of the fine structures within the lung parenchyma could advance our understanding of alveolar physiology and pathophysiology. Current knowledge has been primarily based on histology, but it is a destructive two-dimensional (2-D) technique that is limited by tissue processing artifacts. Micro-CT provides high-resolution three-dimensional (3-D) imaging within a limited sample size, but is not applicable to intact lungs from larger animals or humans. Optical reflectance techniques offer the promise to visualize alveolar regions of the large animal or human lung with sub-cellular resolution in three dimensions. Here, we present the capabilities of three optical reflectance techniques, namely optical frequency domain imaging, spectrally encoded confocal microscopy, and full field optical coherence microscopy, to visualize both gross architecture as well as cellular detail in fixed, phosphate buffered saline-immersed rat lung tissue. Images from all techniques were correlated to each other and then to corresponding histology. Spatial and temporal resolution, imaging depth, and suitability for in vivo probe development were compared to highlight the merits and limitations of each technology for studying respiratory physiology at the alveolar level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number071303
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Alveolar imaging
  • Backscattering
  • Biomedical optics
  • Coherent optics
  • Confocal optics
  • Medical imaging
  • Optical coherence tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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