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An Ultra-High-Density Frequency Domain Optical Tomography System for High Resolution Tissue Functional Assessment

Northeastern researchers have created a system to quantify deep tissue absorption & scattering using an ultra-high-density intensity module

Published: 24th November 2022
An Ultra-High-Density Frequency Domain Optical Tomography System for High Resolution Tissue Functional Assessment
Alex Mit,


Diffuse optical tomography (DOT) is a non-invasive optical imaging technique that is capable of imaging deep (>1 cm) tissue physiology, such as angiogenesis and metabolism, using only non-ionizing near-infrared light. When modulating the DOT light source intensity at a radio-frequency (RF), a frequency-domain DOT (FD-DOT) can provide absolute quantification of tissue absorption and scattering properties. However, due to relatively high instrumentation complexity and cost, most DOT systems utilize only continuous-wave (CW) light sources by assuming tissue scattering or include only a small number of RF channels. The spatial sampling density of these systems are extremely limited as conventional CW or FD DOT systems use fiber optics to measure at a sparse set of point locations.

Technology Overview

Northeastern researchers have created a novel system building upon their recent innovations in compressive sensing and widefield DOT (wfDOT) technologies and developed a portable DOT system that can produce camera-like dense FD measurements covering a large-field-of-view with short scanning time. This allows the new system to offer a measurement density several orders of magnitude higher (producing tens millions of raw measurements instead of thousands) than traditional fiber-based FD systems. This dramatic improvement in measurement density, especially the addition of phase data, allows researchers to produce three-dimensional images of tissue physiology maps with improved resolution and robustness. Moreover, this wfFD design supports simultaneous measurement of multiple wavelengths without added scanning time, further improving measurement density and spectral information, hence permitting the quantification of additional physiologically relevant tissue chromorphores such as water and lipids. This proprietary ultra-high-density wfRF system uses compressive sensing approaches to accelerate image acquisition time without losing spatial information.

The proposed system can also produce simultaneous CW and FD wide-field measurements in a single scan, yielding even greater measurement density and robustness. The overall system is compact and portable, making it suitable for a wide-range of bed-side clinical applications. This device paves the way towards exploring/adding optically-derived functional assessment to complement conventional structural-oriented imaging modalities. To further improve the contrast and resolution of tissue structures in the reconstructed maps, a recently patented prior-guided “tumor-scanning” algorithm can be applied to reconstruct the acquired CW/RF images and uniquely identify small and localized high-contrast inclusions, such as the presence of a malignant breast tumor. It is important to note that it is extremely challenging to perform image reconstructions on such large measurement datasets due to its unprecedented density. Thanks to a unique compressive-sensing technique developed by the researchers, the image reconstruction is not only computationally efficient, but also takes full advantage of the high spatial-resolution measurements to produce reliable 3-D reconstructions.


  • Performs fast, ultra-high-density frequency domain data acquisition with camera-like large field-of-view and easy-calibration
  • Capability to spatially resolve light intensity modulation phase shifts, representing a potentially new tool for improving on current techniques (e.g., DCS and SCOT) devoted to monitoring dynamic changes (e.g., blood flow) in the sampled tissue.
  • Compact and low-cost system for retrieving volumetric tissue physiology maps
  • Potential for integrating other diffuse optical imaging techniques with minimal/no hardware, enabling a platform for novel data processing pipelines


  • Basic research tool
    • Resolving absolute tissue absorption and scattering 3D maps that CW DOT cannot provide
  • Breast imaging tool
    • Bed-side breast tomography system to measure 3D tumor types and locations
    • Clinical equipment for longitudinal monitoring of therapy outcomes
    • Portable system for monitoring breast tissue lesion
    • Integration with commercial x-ray imagers for providing supplementary breast functional diagnosis of breast lesions to better distinguish between malignant and benign lesions
  • Neurology
    • Measuring brain activities noninvasively
    • Monitoring stroke recovery
    • Ischemic stroke monitoring
    • Behavioral response under specific scenarios
    • Epilepsy
  • Brain-computer interfaces
    • Gaming
  • Tissue recovery assessment
    • Diabetic foot monitoring
    • Burn wounds recovery monitoring


Seeking additional funding, licensee and/or industry partner.

IP Status
  • Provisional patent
  • Development partner
  • Commercial partner
  • Licensing