Changes in small blood vessels are a common consequence of diabetes development. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Helmholtz Munich have now developed a method that can be used to measure these microvascular changes in the skin – and thus assess the severity of the disease. To achieve this, they combine artificial intelligence (AI) and innovative high-resolution optoacoustic imaging technology.
Optoacoustic imaging methods use light pulses to generate ultrasound inside tissue. The ultrasound waves generated are then recorded by sensors and converted to images. The signals are caused by tiny expansions and contractions of tissue that surrounds molecules that strongly absorb light. One such molecule is hemoglobin. Since hemoglobin is concentrated in blood vessels, optoacoustic imaging can produce detailed unique images of vessels in ways not possible by other non-invasive techniques.
The basic principles of optoacoustics, or photoacoustics, are known for more than a century, but practical applications in medicine are fairly recent. Vasilis Ntziachristos is Professor of Biological Imaging at TUM and Director of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging and of the Bioengineering Center at Helmholtz Munich. Together with his team, he has developed a range of optoacoustic imaging methods, among them RSOM, short for "Raster-Scan Optoacoustic Mesoscopy”.