Multiphoton autofluorescence imaging of intratissue elastic fibers
Multiphoton induced blue/green autofluorescence by near infrared femtosecond laser pulses has been used to selectively image intratissue elastic fibers in native and tissue engineered (TE) viable heart valves without any invasive tissue removal, embedding, fixation, and staining. Elastic fibers could be clearly distinguished from collagenous structures which emit ultraviolet/violet radiation when excited with intense ultrashort pulses due to second harmonic generation. Deep-tissue three-dimensional imaging of elastic fibers with submicron spatial resolution was performed by optical sectioning of heart valves using a multiphoton laser scanning microscope in connection with a tunable 80 MHz femtosecond laser source. The technology was used to diagnose extracellular matrix structures and cell resettlement of TE heart valves prior implantation. This novel non-invasive method opens the general possibility of high-resolution in situ imaging of elastic fibers, collagen structures and intracellular organelles in living intact tissues without staining.