by Andrew Francis, Kyla Berry, Yikai Chen, Benjamin Figueroa, Dan Fu
Optical “virtual biopsy” is an attractive way to improve disease diagnosis and surgical guidance. Many optical microscopy techniques have been developed to provide diagnostic information without the need for tissue sectioning or staining. Among these techniques, label-free chemical imaging is the most desirable. Recently, it has been shown that narrowband, picosecond stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) can achieve comparable morphological contrast to hematoxylin and eosin staining (H&E staining), the ‘gold standard’ of pathology. However, to translate the technique from the bench to the bedside, optimal laser sources and parameters have yet to be identified. Here we describe an improvement to the narrowband SRS microscopy techniques for label-free tissue imaging. Through spectral slicing of broadband, femtosecond pulses, we are able to maintain the same protein/lipid contrast as narrowband SRS while achieving a higher signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Our method draws upon the benefits of femtosecond pulses (e.g. higher peak power) while preserving those of picosecond pulses (e.g. adequate spectral resolution). We demonstrate this achievement through protein/lipid signal and contrast quantification of mouse brain tissue as a function of bandwidth, and comparison with numerical simulations. Further method validation is provided through imaging of additional mouse tissues: liver, kidney, and skin.