Imaging tool shows oxygen in human tissue like never before

Oxygen, the air we breathe and the foundation of life, remains mysterious in terms of seeing it working through our tissues. That is until researchers developed a new tool to show us just how oxygen travels to our tissue.

Developed by a team of researchers led by Vasilis Ntziachristos, Chair for Biological Imaging at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Director of the Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the eMSOT gives us a new way to see oxygen in the body. The imaging tool is derived from the conventional multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) device but with an added new algorithm that allows the tool to visualize the blood oxygenation level of living tissue up to one centimeter below the skin surface.

"Theoretically, the imaging depth can be extended to more than that," said Stratis Tzoumas, author of a study published in Nature Communications. "There is, however, a limit at about three because at some point, light cannot penetrate the tissue any further."

The accuracy of the eMSOT triumphs over the usual optical and optoacoustic procedure. The tool is also non-invasive and radiation-free, offering its patients a better quality of care while being a more comfortable procedure.

"Information about the amount of oxygen in tissue is important when it comes to various fields in research and treatment - for example tumor growth or in measurements of metabolism" said Ntziachristos. "It may be that eMSOT becomes the gold standard method, once it is ready for clinical use."