Optical coherence tomography (OCT) can be utilized with significant speckle reduction techniques and highly scattering contrast agents for non-invasive, contrast-enhanced imaging of living tissues at the cellular scale. The advantages of reduced speckle noise and improved targeted contrast can be harnessed to track objects as small as 2 µm in vivo, which enables applications for cell tracking and quantification in living subjects. Here we demonstrate the use of large gold nanorods as contrast agents for detecting individual micron-sized polystyrene beads and single myeloma cells in blood circulation using speckle-modulating OCT. This report marks the first time that OCT has been used to detect individual cells within blood in vivo. This technical capability unlocks exciting opportunities for dynamic detection and quantification of tumor cells circulating in living subjects.
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