HeNe laser (633 nm)-coupled confocal microscope allows simulating magnetic resonance imaging/computed tomography scan of the brain and eye: A noninvasive optical approach applicable to small laboratory animals
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are noninvasive medical imaging techniques used for the detailed visualization of internal organs of the human body. Because CT uses X-rays for imaging, there is a risk of radiation exposure. In contrast, MRI uses radiowaves and magnetic fields for imaging; thus, there are no reported biological hazards. However, neither MRI nor CT is suitable as a noninvasive imaging tool applicable in small laboratory animals such as zebrafish embryos or larvae. The recently established micro-CT scanner is only suitable for scanning adult fish and a staining procedure is required for imaging. In addition, CT-based scanning is generally more suitable for skeletal imaging but not for visualization of soft tissues because of its lower contrast. In this study, we evaluated whether 633 nm HeNe laser-coupled confocal microscope allows simulating MRI/CT scan and imaging soft tissues such as brain and eye in zebrafish embryos/larvae. We show that the 633 nm HeNe laser can penetrate well into intact brain and eye of zebrafish. It represents a noninvasive imaging method with high resolution while not requiring contrast agents, enabling the detection of differential signals from normal and pathological organs such as brain and eye.