In summary, we have demonstrated that living optical phantoms can be used as simple yet robust tools for elucidating the research potential of biomedical optics technologies for studying biologicals systems. Using such engineered tissues may provide a powerful method for optimizing and calibrating instruments that investigate fundamental processes in biological tissues without the need to use animals or human subjects.
In our study, we have used OCT-based optical property extractions to study the important biological mechanism of cellular remodeling of an extracellular collagen matrix similar to those found in arteries. Specifically, we demonstrated that the scattering coefficient of a collagen matrix increases after cellular remodeling. Detailed experimental designs are needed to clarify how the optical scattering properties of a collagen matrix depend on different parameters of the remodeling process such as time, collagen and cell concentration, as well as added ingredients such as elastin and endothelial cells.
The artificial tissue model may also become a tool for investigating the pathogenesis of diseases in living tissues. For example, atherosclerosis in the arterial wall can be mimicked by adding lipid to the collagen-SMC system shown here. By exercising such control over tissue content in the vascular construct model, it will be possible to identify which features of atherogenesis can be detected using optical instrumentation such as OCT. Our group is pursuing research in this direction.
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