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Analyst. 2010 Dec;135(12):3156-61. doi: 10.1039/c0an00565g. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Towards a safe non-invasive method for evaluating the carbonate substitution levels of hydroxyapatite (HAP) in micro-calcifications found in breast tissue.

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  • 1Biophotonics Research Unit, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire GL1 3NN, UK.


A new diagnostic concept based on deep Raman spectroscopy is proposed permitting the non-invasive determination of the level of carbonate substitution in type II calcifications (HAP). The carbonate substitution has shown to be directly associated with the pathology of the surrounding breast tissue and different pathology groups can therefore be separated using specific features in the Raman spectra of the calcifications. This study explores the principle of distinguishing between type II calcifications, found in proliferating lesions, by using the strongest Raman peak from calcium hydroxyapatites (the phosphate peak at 960 cm(-1)) to act as a surrogate marker for carbonate substitution levels. It is believed that carbonate ion substitution leads to a perturbation of the hydroxyapatite lattice which in turn affects the phosphate vibrational modes. By studying calcifications, with known carbonate content, buried in porcine tissue it has been possible to evaluate the feasibility of using the proposed approach to probe the composition of the calcifications in vivo and hence provide pathology specific information non-invasively, in real time. Using the proposed concept we were able to determine the level of carbonate substitutions through soft tissue phantom samples (total thickness of 5.6 mm). As the level of carbonate substitution has been previously correlated with mid-FTIR to the lesion type, i.e. whether benign or invasive or in situ carcinoma, the new findings provide a major step forward towards establishing a new capability for diagnosing benign and malignant lesions in breast tissue in a safe and non-invasive manner in vivo.

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