Photoacoustic Imaging to Track Magnetic-manipulated Micro-Robots in Deep Tissue

The next generation of intelligent robotic systems has been envisioned as micro-scale mobile and externally controllable robots. Visualization of such small size microrobots to track their motion in nontransparent medium such as human tissue remains a major challenge, limiting translation into clinical applications. Herein, we present a novel, non-invasive, real-time imaging method by integrating ultrasound (US) and photoacoustic (PA) imaging modalities for tracking and detecting the motion of a single microrobot in deep biological tissue. We developed and evaluated a prototyped PA-guided magnetic microrobot tracking system. The microrobots are fabricated using photoresist mixed with nickel (Ni) particles. The microrobot motion was controlled using an externally applied magnetic field. Our experimental results evaluated the capabilities of PA imaging in visualizing and tracking microrobots in opaque tissue and tissue-mimicking phantoms. The results also demonstrate the ability of PA imaging in detecting a microrobot with the sizes less than the minimum detectable size by US imaging (down to 50 µm). The spectroscopic PA imaging studies determined an optimal wavelength (700 nm) for imaging microrobots with embedded Ni particles in oxygenated (fresh) human blood. In addition, we examined the ability of PA imaging to detect the microrobots through a nontransparent tissue mimic and at a depth of 25 mm, where conventional optical methods are unable to be used in tracking the objects. These initial results demonstrate the feasibility of an integrated US and PA imaging method to push the boundaries of microrobot applications into translational applications

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