Application of Nonlinear Optical Microscopy for Imaging Skin


  • This invited paper is part of the Series: Applications of Imaging to Biological and Photobiological Systems.

Corresponding author email: (Christopher J. Bardeen)


Recent advances in the use of nonlinear optical microscopy (NLOM) in skin microscopy are presented. Nonresonant spectroscopies including second harmonic generation, coherent anti-Stokes Raman and two-photon absorption are described and applications to problems in skin biology are detailed. These nonlinear techniques have several advantages over traditional microscopy methods that rely on one-photon excitation: intrinsic 3D imaging with <1 μm spatial resolution, decreased photodamage to tissue samples and penetration depths up to 1000 μm with the use of near-infrared lasers. Thanks to these advantages, nonlinear optical spectroscopy has become a powerful tool to study the physical and biochemical properties of the skin. Structural information can be obtained using the response of endogenous chemical species in the skin, such as collagen or lipids, indicating that optical biopsy may replace current invasive, time-consuming traditional histology methods. Insertion of specific probe molecules into the skin provides the opportunity to monitor specific biochemical processes such as skin transport, molecular penetration, barrier homeostasis and ultraviolet radiation-induced reactive oxygen species generation. While the field is quite new, it seems likely that the use of NLOM to probe structure and biochemistry of live skin samples will only continue to grow.