Quantifying multiple stain distributions in bioimaging by hyperspectral X-ray tomography

Ryan Warr, Stephan Handschuh, Martin Glösmann, Robert J. Cernik, Philip J. Withers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical staining of biological specimens is commonly utilised to boost contrast in various soft tissue structures, but unambiguous identification of staining location and distribution is difficult without confirmation of the elemental signature, especially for chemicals of similar contrast. Hyperspectral X-ray computed tomography (CT) enables the non-destructive identification, segmentation and mapping of elemental composition within a sample. With the availability of hundreds of narrow, high resolution (~ 1 keV) energy channels, the technique allows the simultaneous detection of multiple contrast agents across different tissue structures. Here we describe a hyperspectral imaging routine for distinguishing multiple chemical agents, regardless of contrast similarity. Using a set of elemental calibration phantoms, we perform a first instance of direct stain concentration measurement using spectral absorption edge markers. Applied to a set of double- and triple-stained biological specimens, the study analyses the extent of stain overlap and uptake regions for commonly used contrast markers. An improved understanding of stain concentration as a function of position, and the interaction between multiple stains, would help inform future studies on multi-staining procedures, as well as enable future exploration of heavy metal uptake across medical, agricultural and ecological fields.

Keywords: X-ray CT, Hyperspectral imaging, Biological staining, Spectral analysis
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Nov 2022


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