Biophotonics, or the convergence of light and life, is an active research area enabling various applications from early disease detection and functional tissue assessment to light-based therapies and treatment response monitoring. We focus on (1) functional tissue assessment for treatment response monitoring using optical coherence tomography (OCT), and (2) tissue pathology detection using polarized light. Briefly:
(1) OCT is a novel medical imaging modality that is essentially an in vivo microscope without the bulky equipment. We have extended OCT’s contrast mechanisms to visualize tissue microvascular blood flow and lymphatic microcirculation. We are now exploring OCT’s biomedical uses, including its ability to “shed light” on radiotherapy. We are using functional OCT for quantifying the radiobiological response of irradiated microvasculature to understand, optimize and personalize cancer radiotherapy treatments.
(2) Polarization properties of light remain relatively unexplored in biomedicine and yet contain a wealth of potentially useful tissue biophysical information. An outstanding clinical problem is the detection of residual tumour at the margins of the resection cavity during breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy). We are using polarization imaging to rapidly identify regions of breast tissue pathology, and use the technology of mass spectrometry (very accurate but very slow, hence its need for polarimetric guidance) to perform localized, definitive diagnosis.