Imaging of normal and pathologic joint synovium using nonlinear optical microscopy as a potential diagnostic tool.
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An estimated 1.3 million people in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA causes profound changes in the synovial membrane of joints, and without early diagnosis and intervention, progresses to permanent alterations in joint structure and function. The purpose of this study is to determine if nonlinear optical microscopy (NLOM) can utilize the natural intrinsic fluorescence properties of tissue to generate images that would allow visualization of the structural and cellular composition of fresh, unfixed normal and pathologic synovial tissue. NLOM is performed on rabbit knee joint synovial samples using 730- and 800-nm excitation wavelengths. Less than 30 mW of excitation power delivered with a 40, 0.8-NA water immersion objective is sufficient for the visualization of synovial structures to a maximum depth of 70 m without tissue damage. NLOM imaging of normal and pathologic synovial tissue reveals the cellular structure, synoviocytes, adipocytes, collagen, vascular structures, and differential characteristics of inflammatory infiltrates without requiring tissue processing or staining. Further study to evaluate the ability of NLOM to assess the characteristics of pathologic synovial tissue and its potential role for the management of disease is warranted.