Quantification of vascular networks in photoacoustic mesoscopy.
Brown EL., Lefebvre TL., Sweeney PW., Stolz BJ., Gröhl J., Hacker L., Huang Z., Couturier D-L., Harrington HA., Byrne HM., Bohndiek SE.
Mesoscopic photoacoustic imaging (PAI) enables non-invasive visualisation of tumour vasculature. The visual or semi-quantitative 2D measurements typically applied to mesoscopic PAI data fail to capture the 3D vessel network complexity and lack robust ground truths for assessment of accuracy. Here, we developed a pipeline for quantifying 3D vascular networks captured using mesoscopic PAI and tested the preservation of blood volume and network structure with topological data analysis. Ground truth data of <i>in silico</i> synthetic vasculatures and a string phantom indicated that learning-based segmentation best preserves vessel diameter and blood volume at depth, while rule-based segmentation with vesselness image filtering accurately preserved network structure in superficial vessels. Segmentation of vessels in breast cancer patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) compared favourably to <i>ex vivo</i> immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, our findings underscore the importance of validating segmentation methods when applying mesoscopic PAI as a tool to evaluate vascular networks <i>in vivo</i>.