Quantitative Third Harmonic Generation Microscopy for Assessment of Glioma in Human Brain Tissue

Zhiqing Zhang, Jan C. de Munck, Niels Verburg, Annemieke J. Rozemuller, Willem Vreuls, Pinar Cakmak, Laura M.G. van Huizen, Sander Idema, Eleonora Aronica, Philip C. de Witt Hamer, Pieter Wesseling, Marie Louise Groot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Distinguishing tumors from normal brain cells is important but challenging in glioma surgery due to the lack of clear interfaces between the two. The ability of label-free third harmonic generation (THG) microscopy in combination with automated image analysis to quantitatively detect glioma infiltration in fresh, unprocessed tissue in real time is assessed. The THG images reveal increased cellularity in grades II–IV glioma samples from 23 patients, as confirmed by subsequent hematoxylin and eosin histology. An automated image quantification workflow is presented for quantitative assessment of the imaged cellularity as a reflection of the degree of glioma invasion. The cellularity is validated in three ways: 1) Quantitative comparison of THG imaging with fluorescence microscopy of nucleus-stained samples demonstrates that THG reflects the true tissue cellularity. 2) Thresholding of THG cellularity differentiates normal brain from glioma infiltration, with 96.6% sensitivity and 95.5% specificity, in nearly perfect (93%) agreement with pathologists. 3) In one patient, a good correlation between THG cellularity and preoperative magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography imaging is demonstrated. In conclusion, quantitative real-time THG microscopy accurately assesses glioma infiltration in ex vivo human brain samples, and therefore holds strong potential for improving the accuracy of surgical resection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1900163
JournalAdvanced Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2019


  • glioma infiltration
  • label-free microscopy
  • neuropathology
  • neurosurgery
  • third harmonic generation


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