Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Biomedical Optics


Thayer School of Engineering


X-ray and optical technologies are the two central pillars for human imaging and therapy. The strengths of x-rays are deep tissue penetration, effective cytotoxicity, and the ability to image with robust projection and computed-tomography methods. The major limitations of x-ray use are the lack of molecular specificity and the carcinogenic risk. In comparison, optical interactions with tissue are strongly scatter dominated, leading to limited tissue penetration, making imaging and therapy largely restricted to superficial or endoscopically directed tissues. However, optical photon energies are comparable with molecular energy levels, thereby providing the strength of intrinsic molecular specificity. Additionally, optical technologies are highly advanced and diversified, being ubiquitously used throughout medicine as the single largest technology sector. Both have dominant spatial localization value, achieved with optical surface scanning or x-ray internal visualization, where one often is used with the other. Therapeutic delivery can also be enhanced by their synergy, where radio-optical and optical-radio interactions can inform about dose or amplify the clinical therapeutic value. An emerging trend is the integration of nanoparticles to serve as molecular intermediates or energy transducers for imaging and therapy, requiring careful design for the interaction either by scintillation or Cherenkov light, and the nanoscale design is impacted by the choices of optical interaction mechanism. The enhancement of optical molecular sensing or sensitization of tissue using x-rays as the energy source is an important emerging field combining x-ray tissue penetration in radiation oncology with the molecular specificity and packaging of optical probes or molecular localization. The ways in which x-rays can enable optical procedures, or optics can enable x-ray procedures, provide a range of new opportunities in both diagnostic and therapeutic medicine. Taken together, these two technologies form the basis for the vast majority of diagnostics and therapeutics in use in clinical medicine.



Original Citation

Pogue BW, Wilson BC. Optical and x-ray technology synergies enabling diagnostic and therapeutic applications in medicine. J Biomed Opt. 2018 Oct;23(12):1-17. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.23.12.121610. PMID: 30350489; PMCID: PMC6197862.