Background: Using optical techniques for tissue diagnostics (so-called ‘optical biopsy’) has been a subject of extensive research for many years. Various groups have been exploring different spectral and/or imaging modalities (e.g. diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, autofluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography (OCT), polarized light microscopy, etc.) for biomedical applications. In this paper, we report on using multi-wavelength imaging Mueller polarimetry combined with an appropriated image post-processing for the detection of tissue malignancy. Methods: We investigate a possibility of complementary analysis of Mueller matrix images obtained for turbid tissue-like scattering phantoms and excised human normal and cancerous colorectal tissue samples embedded in paraffin. Combined application of correlation, fractal and statistical analysis was employed to assess quantitatively the polarization-inhomogeneous scattered fields observed at the surface of tissue samples. Results: The combined analysis of the polarimetric images of paraffin-embedded tissue blocks has proved to be an efficient tool for the unambiguous detection of tissue malignant transformation. A fractal structure was clearly observed at spatial distributions of depolarization of light scattered in healthy tissues in a visible range of spectrum, while corresponding distributions for cancerous tissues did not show such dependence. We demonstrate that paraffin does not destroy a fractal structure of spatial distribution of depolarization. Thus, the loss of fractality in spatial distributions of depolarization for cancerous tissue is related to the structural changes in the tissue sample induced by cancer itself and, therefore, may serve as a marker of the disease. Conclusion: The obtained results emphasize that a combined use of statistical, correlation and fractal analysis for the Mueller-matrix image post-processing is an effective approach for an assessment of variations of optical properties in turbid tissue-like scattering media and biological tissues, with a high potential to be transferred to clinical practice for screening cancerous tissue samples.
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- Correlation and fractal image analysis
- Mueller matrix
- Multiple scattering
- Optical anisotropy