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Carolin Elhardt, Christian M. Wertheimer, Andreas Wartak, Jie Zhao, Hui Min Leung, Stefan A. Kassumeh, Biwei Yin, Guillermo J. Tearney, Reginald Birngruber; Stromal Nerve Imaging and Tracking Using Micro-Optical Coherence Tomography. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2020;9(5):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.9.5.6.
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To image, track and map the nerve fiber distribution in excised rabbit corneas over the entire stromal thickness using micro-optical coherence tomography (µOCT) to develop a screening tool for early peripheral neuropathy.
Excised rabbit corneas were consecutively imaged by a custom-designed µOCT prototype and a commercial laser scanning fluorescence confocal microscope. The µOCT images with a field of view of approximately 1 × 1 mm were recorded with axial and transverse resolutions of approximately 1 µm and approximately 4 µm, respectively. In the volumetric µOCT image data, network maps of hyper-reflective, branched structures traversing different stromal compartments were segmented using semiautomatic image processing algorithms. Furthermore, the same corneas received βIII-tubulin antibody immunostaining before digital confocal microscopy, and a comparison between µOCT image data and immunohistochemistry analysis was performed to validate the nerval origin of the tracked network structures.
Semiautomatic tracing of the nerves with a high range of different thicknesses was possible through the whole corneal volumes, creating a skeleton of the traced nerves. There was a good conformity between the hyper-reflective structures in the µOCT data and the stained nerval structures in the immunohistochemistry data.
This article demonstrates nerval imaging and tracking as well as a spatial correlation between µOCT and a fluorescence corneal nerve standard for larger nerves throughout the full thickness of the cornea ex vivo.
Owing to its advantageous properties, µOCT may become useful as a noncontact method for assessing nerval structures in humans to screen for early peripheral neuropathy.
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