Recent Advances and the Potential for Clinical Use of Autofluorescence Detection of Extra-Ophthalmic Tissues

Molecules. 2020 Apr 30;25(9):2095. doi: 10.3390/molecules25092095.


The autofluorescence (AF) characteristics of endogenous fluorophores allow the label-free assessment and visualization of cells and tissues of the human body. While AF imaging (AFI) is well-established in ophthalmology, its clinical applications are steadily expanding to other disciplines. This review summarizes clinical advances of AF techniques published during the past decade. A systematic search of the MEDLINE database and Cochrane Library databases was performed to identify clinical AF studies in extra-ophthalmic tissues. In total, 1097 articles were identified, of which 113 from internal medicine, surgery, oral medicine, and dermatology were reviewed. While comparable technological standards exist in diabetology and cardiology, in all other disciplines, comparability between studies is limited due to the number of differing AF techniques and non-standardized imaging and data analysis. Clear evidence was found for skin AF as a surrogate for blood glucose homeostasis or cardiovascular risk grading. In thyroid surgery, foremost, less experienced surgeons may benefit from the AF-guided intraoperative separation of parathyroid from thyroid tissue. There is a growing interest in AF techniques in clinical disciplines, and promising advances have been made during the past decade. However, further research and development are mandatory to overcome the existing limitations and to maximize the clinical benefits.

Keywords: autofluorescence imaging; clinical studies; endogenous fluorophores; imaging; inflammation; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review