Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Kamran Avanaki

Second Advisor

E Mark Haacke


Optical coherence tomography (OCT), based on the principle of interferometry, is a fast and non-invasive imaging modality, which has been approved by FDA for dermatologic applications. OCT has high spatial resolution up to micrometer scale compared to traditional ultrasound imaging. In addition, OCT can provide real-time cross-sectional images with 1 to 2 mm penetration depth, which makes it an ideal imaging technique to assess the skin micro-morphology and pathology without any tissue removal. Many studies have investigated the possibilities of using OCT to evaluate dermatologic conditions, such as skin cancer, dermatitis, psoriasis, and skin damages. Hence, OCT has tremendous potential to provide skin histological and pathological information and assist differential diagnosis of various skin diseases. In this study, we used a swept-source OCT with 1305 nm central wavelength to explore its advanced applications in dermatology. This dissertation consists of four major research projects. First, we explored the feasibility of OCT imaging for assisting real-time visualization in skin biopsy. We showed that OCT could be used to guide and track a needle insertion in mouse skin in real-time. The structure of skin and the movement of needle can be clearly seen on the OCT images without any time delay during the procedures. Next, we tested the concept of performing the punch biopsy using OCT hand-held probe attached to a piercing tip in a phantom. We proved that using the OCT is a reliable technique to delineate the margin of lesion in phantom. And it is possible to perform the punch biopsy with the OCT probe. Second, we tested the performance of contrast-enhanced OCT in melanoma detection in an in vitro study. Melanoma is the most lethal type of skin cancer. Early detection could significantly improve the long-term survival rate of patients. In this initial study, a contrast agent (Gal3-USGNPs) is developed by conjugating melanoma biomarker (Gal3) to ultra-small gold nanoparticles (USGNPs). We showed that the contrast agent can differentiate B16 melanoma cells from normal skin keratinocytes in vitro. To avoid systemic administration of USGNPs, the third project continues to explore the enhanced topical delivery of USGNPs. In this study, we used OCT to monitor the topical delivery of nanoparticles on pig skin over time. And the diffusion and penetration of USGNPs in skin can be improved by applying chemical and physical enhancers such as DMSO and sonophoresis. Finally, in addition to image the cross-sectional structure of skin, we also aim to extract quantitative information from OCT images. The skin optical properties such as attenuation coefficient can be measured from OCT images. We measured and compared the skin attenuation coefficient in the skin of forehead and lateral hip, the skin of three different age groups, and the skin of three different Fitzpatrick types. The statistical analysis showed that epidermis has much higher attenuation coefficient than dermis. And the skin type V & VI have a relatively lower attenuation coefficient than the other skin types. These studies could aid the detection of skin cancer using imaging techniques and provide some new insights into the future applications of OCT in dermatology.