Tomographic bright field imaging (TBFI)

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Tomographic bright field image analysis enables the three-dimensional measurement of engineered and biological specimens without the requirement of sample labeling or expensive specialized optical equipment. This novel software offers the unique advantage of true quantitative image analysis of factors like mass and density and could provide a novel way of tracking cellular structure and dynamics over time.

Technology Overview

Current bright field imaging techniques (i.e. dark field, bright field, phase, differential interreference contrast, etc.) remain largely qualitative, preventing detailed analysis of measurements like cellular and subcellular mass without the use of specialized and expensive microscopic equipment. Oregon Health & Science University researcher Owen McCarty and colleagues have developed tomographic bright field imaging (TBFI) to provide a truly quantitative 3-dimensional analysis method that can be utilized with standard laboratory microscopes. Using wave propagation through semi-transparent materials, such as cells and engineered specimens, this software solution uses corresponding values of density within each pixel to determine quantitative measurements within an image.  Providing 3-dimensional measurements allows for the quantitation of refractive index, dry mass, volume, and density as demonstrated by validation studies using polystyrene spheres and red blood cells. TBFI can be utilized without stains or immunohistochemical labeling, thereby reducing the preprocessing workload, and is also a standalone computer program.  The ability to measure microscopic biomaterial 3-dimensionally using standard microscopes could be utilized for a broad range of research applications and scientific fields and provides a simple way to increase quantitative power for standard microscope users.


Baker SM, Phillips KG, McCarty OJ. “Development of a label-free imaging technique for the quantification of thrombus formation.” Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering 2012 Dec; 5(4):488-492.

Phillips et al., “Measurement of single cell refractive index, dry mass, volume and density using a transillumination microscope.” Phys Rev Lett. 109(2012): 118105.

Phillips et al. “Quantification of cellular volume and sub-cellular density fluctuations: comparison of normal peripheral blood cells and circulating tumor cells identified in a breast cancer patient.” Frontiers in Oncology 2 (2012).

Baker-Groberg SM, Phillips KG, McCarty OJ. “Quantification of volume, mass, and density of thrombus formation using brightfield and differential interference contrast microscopy.” Journal of Biomedical Optics 2013 Jan; 18(1):16014.

Phillips KG, Baker-Groberg SM, McCarty OJ. “Quantitative optical microscopy: measurement of cellular biophysical features with a standard optical microscope.” Journal of Visualized Experiments 2014 Apr 7(86).

Baker-Groberg SM, Cianchetti FA, Phillips KG, McCarty OJ. “Development of a method to quantify platelet adhesion and aggregation under static conditions.” Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering 2014, Jun; 7(2):285-290.

Baker-Groberg SM, Phillips KG, Healy LD, Itakura A, Porter JE, Newton PK, Nan X, McCarty OJ. “Critical behavior of subcellular density organization during neutrophil activation and migration.” Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering 2015 Dec; 8(4): 543-552.

Baker-Groberg SM, Bornstein S, Zilberman-Rudenko J, Schmidt M, Tormoen GT, Kernan C, Thomas CR, Wong MH, Phillips KG, McCarty OJ. “Effect of ionizing radiation on the physical biology of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells.” Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering 2015 Sep; 8(3): 517-525.

Licensing Opportunity

Available for licensing

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Trina Voss
Technology Development Manager
Oregon Health & Science University
Owen McCarty
Kevin Phillips
Steven Jacques
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Research Tools - Other
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