Biomedical optical techniques for intracochlear cellular imaging

Imaging the inner ear microanatomy is of great importance for the assessment of the state of the cells responsible for sound detection. Hearing disorders are mainly due to a malfunction of the cochlea, the bone containing the cells inside the inner ear. Under this situation, using suitable imaging techniques would be extremely helpful in detecting disease and diagnosing pathologies of the inner ear. However, cochlear small size and encasement in bone provide challenging obstacles, preventing visualization of intracochlear microanatomy using standard clinical imaging modalities. In this thesis, we explore optical techniques to image inner ear cells and we report an innovative method to observe intracochlear structures through the scattering cochlear bone. Firstly, we report different imaging techniques we used for intracochlear cellular investigation, starting with conventional optical microscopy. Two-photon excitation fluorescence (TPEF) microscopy is the most suitable technique for high quality images of the hair cells within the organ of Corti. Our results from extracted mouse organ of Corti show that we are able to distinguish between healthy and damaged sensory cells and nerve fibers, analyzing TPEF images from different mouse samples: young, old, exposed to noise and not exposed to noise. We then describe different noninvasive methods that have been used to image intact cochleae, such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), X-ray Computed Tomography (X-Ray CT), micro-Computed Tomography (X-Ray µCT) and Optical Diffraction Tomography (ODT). These techniques allow the observation of the internal ear anatomy, despite the bone. We report tomographic volumetric reconstructions of mouse cochlea and we compare them in terms of achievable image resolution. µ-CT is the most appropriate techniques providing both penetration through bone and high-level resolution images down to 2µm. However, the high dose of radiation used in µCT studies prevent translation of these techniques to living humans. Due to the discussed challenges for imaging the hair cells through the highly scattering bone, the aim of my thesis is to develop a new method for intracochlear cellular imaging with minimum trauma. The last chapter represents the core of this PhD project. In this chapter, after considering the advantages and disadvantages of all the possible imaging techniques, we report our innovative technique for visualization of cochlear cells through the overlying scattering bone by combining femtosecond laser bone ablation and TPEF microscopy. The controlled ultrafast laser ablation reduces the optical scattering of the cochlear bone while the TPEF provides a contrast mechanism to resolve individual cells behind the bone. We implemented a simultaneous OCT with the laser ablation to enhance the precision of ablation and prevent inadvertent violation of the delicate cells hidden behind bone. An additional bright-field camera shows real-time images of the sample. We demonstrate that our approach improves the light focusing capability through the cochlear bone, allowing imaging of intracochlear structures in intact cochleae with high resolution. This extremely highly promising approach can be further developed for clinical ablation instruments and endoscopes that can reach the cochlea and produce images of cells within the inner ear to establish precise diagnosis, guide treatment and assess response to therapies, which is not yet possible in the clinic.

Psaltis, Demetri
Lausanne, EPFL

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2019-05-01, last modified 2020-10-24

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