The Tearney Lab’s research is focused on the development of novel optical instrumentation and methods that address challenges in clinical medicine and basic biological research. Light is uniquely well suited for non-invasively interrogating the microscopic structure, molecular composition, and biomechanical properties of biological tissues. Realizing these capabilities in a practical instrument requires a multidisciplinary approach, focused on specific challenges, that integrates advanced concepts from physics, engineering and materials science with biology and clinical experience. The location of our laboratory on the campus of a major clinical research hospital fosters regular interaction across these disciplinary areas.

About Our Work

Early Detection of Precancerous Lesions and Intramucosal Cancer of The Esophagus
We have developed several novel techniques for detecting early esophageal cancer. The most mature of these is optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), a recent advance from optical coherence tomography. Facilitated by the high speed of OFDI, we can now image the entire distal esophagus in patients with microscopic resolution, achieving comprehensive screening for focal disease. We have additionally developed a targeted biopsy platform that utilizes this volume microscopic dataset and automatically marks areas on the esophagus that correspond to the most severe disease so that these sites may be subsequently biopsied by the endoscopist.

Detection, Characterization and Monitoring of Coronary Atherosclerosis
Our laboratory is investigating OFDI, Raman spectroscopy, NIRS, and fluorescence for investigating coronary atherosclerosis. This work spans from technology development and feasibility testing through multi-center clinical studies. We are also developing a newer 1-mm resolution imaging technology for coronary imaging termed micro optical coherence tomography (μOCT). μOCT will enable the visualization of cells and subcellular structures in the coronary wall of patients.

Advanced Microscopy
Novel advanced microscopes, including fluorescence coherence tomography, differential near-field scanning optical microscopy, infrared full-field optical coherence microscopy have been developed in our laboratory. These techniques are used to investigate human disease as well as to study small animal models, such as Drosophila, Zebrafish, and Xenopus laevis.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Optical Frequency-domain Imaging (OFDI)
Advanced forms of OCT and OFDI are being utilized in clinical studies of the colon, liver, biliary tract, pancreas, pulmonary tract and skin. These experiments are setting the foundation for additional clinical applications for OCT. Optical frequency-domain imaging (OFDI) was developed to overcome the limitations of optical coherence tomography and achieves a more than 50-fold improvement in image acquisition speed. Our work focuses on the development of advanced OFDI methods for solving clinical dilemmas surrounding early detection of atherosclerosis and cancer.

Confocal Microscopy
We have developed a new form of confocal microscopy, termed spectrally encoded confocal microscopy (SECM), that does not require high speed scanning, yet is capable of obtaining cellular-level resolution images at hundreds of frames per second through an endoscope. We are also fabricating optical probes capable of scanning entire luminal organs with this technology.

Laser Speckle Imaging
We are exploring the use of laser speckle for a variety of diagnostic tasks, including, depth-dependent tissue blood perfusion determination, and identification of patients with compartment syndrome.

Ultraminiature Endoscopy
A new technique called spectrally-encoded endoscopy has been invented in our laboratory. This device provides high resolution and three-dimensional endoscopic images through a single optical fiber.

Photoacoustic Imaging
Photoacoustic imaging detects light-generated sound and forms high-resolution images that reveal the anatomical, functional, and molecular composition of tissue. Selective light absorption by biomolecules (hemoglobin, melanin, lipid, etc.) thermally induces a rise in pressure, and launches acoustic waves that are characteristic of the tissue they come from. In recent investigations on animals and ex-vivo tissue, photoacoustic imaging has showed promise in detecting early-stage cancer, assessing hemodynamic and metabolic functions, and identifying vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques. Our lab is working on advancing photoacoustic techniques towards real-world clinical applications, in cardiology and emergency medicine.



Within Wellman

Irene Kochevar
Robert Redmond
Tayyaba Hasan


James Stone (MGH Pathology)
Mari Mino Kenudsen (MGH Pathology)
Gregory Lauwers (MGH Pathology)
Martha Pitman (MGH Pathology)
Norm Nishioka (MGH Gastroenterology)
Bill Brugge (MGH Gastroenterology)
Peter Kelsey (MGH Gastroenterology)
David Forcione (MGH Gastroenterology)
Farouc Jaffer (MGH Cardiology)
Marty Leon (Columbia University)
Jeff Moses (Columbia University)
Juan Granada (Columbia University, Skirball)
Sergio Waxman (Lahey Clinic)
John Beamis (Lahey Clinic)
Evelyn Regar (Erasmus Medical Center)
Patrick Serruys (Erasmus Medical Center)
John Beamis (Lahey Clinic)
Chin Hur (MGH Gastroenterology)
Yukako Yagi (MGH Pathology)