Micro-optical coherence tomography for high-resolution morphologic imaging of cellular and nerval corneal micro-structures

Biomed Opt Express. 2020 Sep 28;11(10):5920-5933. doi: 10.1364/BOE.402971. eCollection 2020 Oct 1.

Abstract

We demonstrate the highest resolution (1.5×1.5×1 µm) micrometer optical coherence tomography (µOCT) imaging of the morphologic micro-structure of excised swine and non-human primate corneas. Besides epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cell morphology, this report focuses on investigating the most peripheral corneal nerve fibers, the nerve fibers of the subbasal plexus (SBP). Alterations of SBP nerve density and composition are reportedly linked to major neurologic disorders, such as diabetic neuropathy, potentially indicating earliest onsets of denervation. Here, the fine, hyperreflective, epithelial nerve structures located just above Bowman's membrane, are i) visualized using our µOCT prototype, ii) validated by comparison to fluorescence confocal microscopy (including selective immunohistochemical staining), and iii) segmented using state-of-the-art image processing. Here, we also introduce polarization sensitive (PS) µOCT imaging, demonstrating, to the best of our knowledge, the highest resolution corneal PS-OCT scans reported to date.