High-resolution label-free imaging of tissue morphology with confocal phase microscopy

Martin Schnell, Shravan Gupta, Tomasz P. Wrobel, Michael G. Drage, Rohit Bhargava, P. Scott Carney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Label-free imaging approaches seek to simplify and augment histopathologic assessment by replacing the current practice of staining by dyes to visualize tissue morphology with quantitative optical measurements. Quantitative phase imaging (QPI) operates with visible/UV light and thus provides a resolution matched to current practice. Here we introduce and demonstrate confocal QPI for label-free imaging of tissue sections and assess its utility for manual histopathologic inspection. Imaging cancerous and normal adjacent human breast and prostate, we show that tissue structural organization can be resolved with high spatial detail comparable to conventional hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stains. Our confocal QPI images are found to be free of halo, solving this common problem in QPI. We further describe a virtual imaging system based on finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) calculations and combine it with numerical tissue phantoms to quantitatively show the absence of halo and the improved clarity in resolving subcellular features with confocal QPI compared to wide-field QPI. Confocal QPI bears the potential to become a common tool for label-free disease diagnosis, while the presented FDTD method provides a flexible platform to evaluate the diagnostic potential of QPI methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1180
Number of pages8
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 20 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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