Handheld cross-polarised microscope for imaging individual pigmented cells in human skin in vivo

Rafael Romero, Jingwei Zhao, Delaney Stratton, Kenneth Marcelino, Momoka Sugimura, Alia Nichols, Salvador Gonzalez, Manu Jain, Clara Curiel-Lewandrowski, Dongkyun Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the development of a simple, handheld cross-polarised microscope (CPM) and demonstration of imaging individual pigmented cells in human skin in vivo. In the CPM device, the cross-polarised detection approach is used to reduce the specular reflection from the skin surface and preferentially detect multiply-scattered light. The multiply-scattered light works as back illumination from within the tissue towards the skin surface, and superficial pigment such as intraepidermal melanin absorbs some spectral bands of the multiply-scattered light and cast coloured shadows. Since the light that interacted with the superficial pigment only needs to travel a short distance before it exits the skin surface, microscopic details of the pigment can be preserved. The CPM device uses a water-immersion objective lens with a high numerical aperture to image the microscopic details with minimal spherical aberrations and a small depth of focus. Preliminary results from a pilot study of imaging skin lesions in vivo showed that the CPM device could reveal three-dimensional distribution of pigmented cells and intracellular distribution of pigment. Co-registered CPM and reflectance confocal microscopy images showed good correspondence between dark, brown cells in CPM images and bright, melanin-containing cells in reflectance confocal microscopy images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • capillary imaging
  • cross-polarised microscopy
  • in vivo microscopy
  • melanin imaging
  • skin imaging
  • three-dimensional microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology

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