Tulane University Translational Science Institute (TUTSI)

Feasibility of Spectral Photoacoustic
Imaging for Clinical Monitoring of Preeclampsia


Project Lead: Carolyn Bayer, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Project Summary

The project aims to address key barriers to clinical translation of placental functional imaging tools and methods, and demonstrate feasibility of the method for human clinical translation.

Development of systems for human placental imaging will provide a key technology to link placental function with therapeutic efficacy. The proposal will pursue two specific aims: 1) the development of methods to image in vivo placental oxygen changes in response to therapy; and 2) the evaluation of the feasibility of photoacoustic imaging for human clinical translation. Under the first aim, spectral photoacoustic imaging will be used to detect therapeutic response in a preclinical model of preeclampsia. Under the second aim, spectral photoacoustic imaging will be implemented to verify the safety and imaging depth capabilities. This approach is innovative, because it represents a substantive departure from the status quo by demonstrating ultrasound-guided spectral photoacoustic imaging to assess placental oxygenation and response to therapy. The establishment of spectral photoacoustic imaging of placental function will constitute a significant improvement towards characterizing the physiological environment of the placenta during preeclampsia; acquiring this missing information is expected to open up new therapeutic options and move the field substantially towards improved treatment. This contribution is expected to have broad translational importance in the prevention and treatment of a range of pregnancy-associated diseases, and prevention of associated later risk of cardiometabolic disease.

Spectral photoacoustic images of placental ischemia. (left) Ultrasound of the placenta on GD16 in normal pregnant (top) and RUPP (bottom) acquired with a 20MHz transducer. (middle) Photoacoustic signal in the placenta (p) generated at 808 nm representing equal absorption of oxy-and deoxyhemoglobin. (right) The photoacoustic image-derived tissue oxygenation superimposed on the ultrasound image. The prominent blue coloring in the RUPP placenta shows ischemia occurs after the RUPP procedure. Scale bar = 3mm.

Photo by Paula Birch