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Med Phys. 2010 Jan;37(1):329-38.

In vivo bioluminescence tomography with a blocking-off finite-difference SP3 method and MRI/CT coregistration.

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  • 1Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA. ak2083@columbia.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Bioluminescence imaging is a research tool for studying gene expression levels in small animal models of human disease. Bioluminescence light, however, is strongly scattered in biological tissue and no direct image of the light-emitting reporter probe's location can be obtained. Therefore, the authors have developed a linear image reconstruction method for bioluminescence tomography (BLT) that recovers the three-dimensional spatial bioluminescent source distribution in small animals.

METHODS:

The proposed reconstruction method uses third-order simplified spherical harmonics (SP3) solutions to the equation of radiative transfer for modeling the bioluminescence light propagation in optically nonuniform tissue. The SP3 equations and boundary conditions are solved with a finite-difference (FD) technique on a regular grid. The curved geometry of the animal surface was taken into account with a blocking-off region method for regular grids. Coregistered computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) images provide information regarding the geometry of the skin surface and internal organs. The inverse source problem is defined as an algebraic system of linear equations for the unknown source distribution and is iteratively solved given multiview and multispectral boundary measurements. The average tissue absorption parameters, which are used for the image reconstruction process, were calculated with an evolution strategy (ES) from in vivo measurements using an implanted pointlike source of known location and spectrum. Moreover, anatomical information regarding the location of the internal organs and other tissue structures within the animal's body are provided by coregistered MR images.

RESULTS:

First, the authors recovered the wavelength-dependent absorption coefficients (average error of 14%) with the ES under ideal conditions by using a numerical mouse model. Next, they reconstructed the average absorption coefficient of a small animal by using an artificial implanted light source and the validated ES. Last, they conducted two in vivo animal experiments and recovered the spatial location of the implanted light source and the spatial distribution of a bioluminescent reporter system located in the kidneys. The source reconstruction results were coregistered to CT and MR images. They further found that accurate bioluminescence image reconstructions could be obtained when segmenting a voidlike cyst with low-scattering and absorption parameters, whereas inaccurate image reconstructions were obtained when assuming a uniform optical parameter distribution instead. The image reconstructions were completed within 23 min on a 3 GHz Intel processor.

CONCLUSIONS:

The authors demonstrated on in vivo examples that the combination of anatomical coregistration, accurate optical tissue properties, multispectral acquisition, and a blocking-off FD-SP3 solution of the radiative transfer model significantly improves the accuracy of the BLT reconstructions.

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