Tissue engineering is a branch of regenerative medicine that aims to manipulate cells and scaffolds to create bioartificial tissues and organs for patients. A major challenge lies in monitoring the blood supply to the new tissue following transplantation: the integration and neovascularization of scaffolds in vivo is critical to their functionality. Photoacoustic imaging (PAI) is a laser-generated ultrasound-based technique that is particularly well suited to visualising microvasculature due to the high optical absorption of haemoglobin. Here, we describe an early proof-of-concept study in which PAI in widefield tomography mode is used to image biological, decellularized human tracheal scaffolds. We found that PAI allowed the longitudinal tracking of scaffold integration into subcutaneous murine tissue with high spatial resolution at depth over an extended period of time. The results of the study were consistent with post-imaging histological analyses, demonstrating that PAI can be used to non-invasively monitor the extent of vascularization in biological tissue-engineered scaffolds. We propose that this technique may be a valuable tool for studies designed to test interventions aimed at improving the speed and extent of scaffold neovascularization in tissue engineering. With technological refinement, it could also permit in vivo monitoring of revascularization in patients, for example to determine timing of heterotopic graft transfer.
Ogunlade, O., Ho, J. O. Y., Kalber, T. L., Hynds, R. E., Zhang, E., Janes, S. M., … Beard, P. (2019). Monitoring neovascularization and integration of decellularized human scaffolds using photoacoustic imaging. Photoacoustics, 13, 76–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pacs.2019.01.001