Fluorescence Lifetime-Based Optical Molecular Imaging
Fluorescence lifetime is a powerful contrast mechanism for in vivo molecular imaging. In this chapter, we describe instrumentation and methods to optimally exploit lifetime contrast using a time domain fluorescence tomography system. The key features of the system are the use of point excitation in free-space using ultrashort laser pulses and non-contact detection using a gated, intensified CCD camera. The surface boundaries of the imaging volume are acquired using a photogrammetric camera integrated with the imaging system, and implemented in theoretical models of light propagation in biological tissue. The time domain data are optimally analyzed using a lifetime-based tomography approach, which is based on extracting a tomographic set of lifetimes and decay amplitudes from the long time decay portion of the time domain data. This approach improves the ability to locate in vivo targets with a resolution better than conventional optical methods. The application of time domain lifetime multiplexing and tomography are illustrated using phantoms and tumor bearing mouse model of breast adenocarcinoma. In the latter application, the time domain approach allows an improved detection of fluorescent protein signals from intact nude mice in the presence of background autofluorescence. This feature has potential applications for longitudinal pre-clinical evaluation of drug treatment response as well as to address fundamental questions related to tumor physiology and metastasis.