Improved mathematical and computational tools for modeling photon propagation in tissue
Calabro, Katherine Weaver
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Light interacts with biological tissue through two predominant mechanisms: scattering and absorption, which are sensitive to the size and density of cellular organelles, and to biochemical composition (ex. hemoglobin), respectively. During the progression of disease, tissues undergo a predictable set of changes in cell morphology and vascularization, which directly affect their scattering and absorption properties. Hence, quantification of these optical property differences can be used to identify the physiological biomarkers of disease with interest often focused on cancer. Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy is a diagnostic tool, wherein broadband visible light is transmitted through a fiber optic probe into a turbid medium, and after propagating through the sample, a fraction of the light is collected at the surface as reflectance. The measured reflectance spectrum can be analyzed with appropriate mathematical models to extract the optical properties of the tissue, and from these, a set of physiological properties. A number of models have been developed for this purpose using a variety of approaches -- from diffusion theory, to computational simulations, and empirical observations. However, these models are generally limited to narrow ranges of tissue and probe geometries. In this thesis, reflectance models were developed for a much wider range of measurement parameters, and influences such as the scattering phase function and probe design were investigated rigorously for the first time. The results provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence reflectance, with novel insights that, in some cases, challenge current assumptions in the field. An improved Monte Carlo simulation program, designed to run on a graphics processing unit (GPU), was built to simulate the data used in the development of the reflectance models. Rigorous error analysis was performed to identify how inaccuracies in modeling assumptions can be expected to affect the accuracy of extracted optical property values from experimentallyacquired reflectance spectra. From this analysis, probe geometries that offer the best robustness against error in estimation of physiological properties from tissue, are presented. Finally, several in vivo studies demonstrating the use of reflectance spectroscopy for both research and clinical applications are presented.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University