Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Medical Physics


Dr. Michael S. Patterson


Dr. Tom Farrell, Dr. Troy Farncombe



Committee Member

Dr. Tom Farrell, Dr. Troy Farncombe


Small animal imaging is a valuable tool in preclinical biomedical research which relies on the use of animal models to understand human disease. Newly emerging optical imaging techniques such as bioluminescence tomography offer an inexpensive and sensitive alternative to more established imaging technologies. These techniques are capable of non-invasively imaging a variety of cellular and molecular processes in vivo. As an emerging technology, current bioluminescence imaging methods suffer from several limitations, preventing them from reaching their full potential.

In this work, we describe the design and characterization of an integrated imaging system capable of multispectral bioluminescence tomography (BLT), diffuse optical tomography (DOT), and X-ray computed tomography (CT). The system addresses many of the inherent problems encountered in planar bioluminescence imaging techniques, allowing for the recovery of more accurate and quantitative bioluminescence data. The integrated X-ray CT scanner provides anatomical information which aids in the visualization and localization of the recovered bioluminescence distributions and also helps to constrain the inverse reconstruction in the diffuse optical tomography system. It was found that the inclusion of spatial priors from X-ray CT improved the reconstructed image quality dramatically. Four image reconstruction algorithms were evaluated for their ability to recover the effective attenuation coefficients of a series of test phantoms. Two of the algorithms (a modified Levenberg-Marquardt method, and a single-step Tikhonov method) did not use any a priori spatial information. Two other algorithms (hard priors and soft priors) used a priori structural information from X-ray CT to constrain the reconstruction process. The two methods incorporating spatial prior information resulted in recovered optical property distributions with RMS errors ranging from 8 % to 15 % in a series of test phantoms versus errors of 11 % to 26 % for non-spatial methods. The soft priors method was shown to be more resilient to imperfect a priori information.

The multispectral BLT component was used to recover accurate bioluminescence distributions in test phantoms using a priori background optical properties recovered from the DOT system. Multispectral measurements were shown to provide an accurate method for estimating the position of a bioluminescence source due to the wavelength dependent attenuation of tissue. Experimental measurements are presented which explore the importance of accurate estimates of background optical properties in BLT. The hard spatial prior method was found to provide the best overall recovery of total source strength, position, and fidelity at all source depths up to 12.5 mm. The total source strength was recovered to within 8 %, while the source position was recovered to within 0.16 mm in all cases. Errors in recovered power and position showed no dependence on depth up to the maximum of 12.5 mm.

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