Photoacoustic Imaging for Assessing Tissue Oxygenation Changes in Rat Hepatic Fibrosis

Mrigendra B., Karmacharya, Laith R., Sultan, Brooke M., Kirkham, Angela K., Brice, Andrew K.W., Wood, Chandra M., Sehgal

Diagnostics |

Chronic liver inflammation progressively evokes fibrosis and cirrhosis resulting in compromised liver function, and often leading to cancer. Early diagnosis and staging of fibrosis is crucial because the five-year survival rate of early-stage liver cancer is high. This study investigates the progression of hepatic fibrosis induced in rats following ingestion of diethylnitrosamine (DEN). Changes in oxygen saturation and hemoglobin concentration resulting from chronic inflammation were assayed longitudinally during DEN ingestion by photoacoustic imaging (PAI). Accompanying liver tissue changes were monitored simultaneously by B-mode sonographic imaging. Oxygen saturation and hemoglobin levels in the liver increased over 5 weeks and peaked at 10 weeks before decreasing at 13 weeks of DEN ingestion. The oxygenation changes were accompanied by an increase in hepatic echogenicity and coarseness in the ultrasound image. Histology at 13 weeks confirmed the development of severe fibrosis and cirrhosis. The observed increase in PA signal representing enhanced blood oxygenation is likely an inflammatory physiological response to the dietary DEN insult that increases blood flow by the development of neovasculature to supply oxygen to a fibrotic liver during the progression of hepatic fibrosis. Assessment of oxygenation by PAI may play an important role in the future assessment of hepatic fibrosis.