Jennifer Kehlet Barton

Jennifer Kehlet Barton

Director, BIO5 Institute
Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Engineering
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Professor, Agricultural-Biosystems Engineering
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Cancer Biology - GIDP
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor, Medical Imaging
Professor, Optical Sciences
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-0314

Work Summary

I develop new optical imaging devices that can detect cancer at the earliest stage. Optics has the resolution and sensitivity to find these small, curable lesions, and we design the endoscope that provide access to organs inside the body. .

Research Interest

Jennifer Barton, Ph.D. is known for her development of miniature endoscopes that combine multiple optical imaging techniques, particularly optical coherence tomography and fluorescence spectroscopy. She evaluates the suitability of these endoscopic techniques for detecting early cancer development in patients and pre-clinical models. She has a particular interest in the early detection of ovarian cancer, the most deadly gynecological malignancy. Additionally, her research into light-tissue interaction and dynamic optical properties of blood laid the groundwork for a novel therapeutic laser to treat disorders of the skin’s blood vessels. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal papers in these research areas. She is currently Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Optical Sciences, Agriculture-Biosystems Engineering, and Medical Imaging at the University of Arizona. She has served as department head of Biomedical Engineering, Associate Vice President for Research, and is currently Director of the BIO5 Institute, a collaborative research institute dedicated to solving complex biology-based problems affecting humanity. She is a fellow of SPIE – the International Optics Society, and a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Keywords: bioimaging, biomedical optics, biomedical engineering, bioengineering, cancer, endoscopes


Barton, J., Bonnema, G. T., Cardinal, K. O., McNally, J. B., Williams, S. K., & Barton, J. K. (0). Assessment of blood vessel mimics with optical coherence tomography. Journal of biomedical optics, 12(2).

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging modality that enables assessment of tissue structural characteristics. Studies have indicated that OCT is a useful method to assess both blood vessel morphology and the response of a vessel to a deployed stent. We evaluated the ability of OCT to visualize the cellular lining of a tissue-engineered blood vessel mimic (BVM) and the response of this lining to a bare metal stent. We develop a side-firing endoscope that obtains intraluminal, longitudinal scans within the sterile bioreactor environment, enabling time-serial assessment. Seventeen BVMs are imaged with the endoscopic OCT system. The BVMs are then evaluated via fluorescence microscopy and/or standard histologic techniques. We determine that (1) the OCT endoscope can be repeatedly inserted without visible damage to the BVM cellular lining, (2) OCT provides a precise measure of cellular lining thickness with good correlation to measurements obtained from histological sections, and (3) OCT is capable of monitoring the accumulation of cellular material in response to a metallic stent. Our studies indicate that OCT is a useful technique for monitoring the BVM cellular lining, and that OCT may facilitate the use of BVMs for early stage device assessment.

Swan, E., Tate, T., Keenan, M., Black, J. F., Utzinger, U., & Barton, J. (2015). Stray light mitigation in a novel endoscope for fallopian tubes. ENDOSCOPIC MICROSCOPY X; AND OPTICAL TECHNIQUES IN PULMONARY MEDICINE II, 9304.
Castro, J. M., Brownlee, J., Luo, Y., de Leon, E., Barton, J. K., Barbastathis, G., & Kostuk, R. K. (2011). Spatial-spectral volume holographic systems: resolution dependence on effective thickness. Applied optics, 50(7), 1038-46.

The resolution dependence of spatial-spectral volume holographic imaging systems on angular and spectral bandwidth of nonuniform gratings is investigated. Modeling techniques include a combination of the approximate coupled-wave analysis and the transfer-matrix method for holograms recorded in absorptive media. The effective thickness of the holograms is used as an estimator of the resolution of the imaging systems. The methodology, which assists in the design and optimization of volume holographic simulation results based on our approach, are confirmed with experiments and show proof of consistency and usefulness of the proposed models.

Cardinal, K. O., Bonnema, G. T., Hofer, H., Barton, J. K., & Williams, S. K. (2006). Tissue-engineered vascular grafts as in vitro blood vessel mimics for the evaluation of endothelialization of intravascular devices. Tissue engineering, 12(12), 3431-8.

The accelerating use of minimally invasive procedures for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, and the commensurate development of intravascular devices such as stents, has lead to a high demand for preclinical assessment techniques. A 3-dimensional in vitro blood vessel mimic (BVM) would be ideal for device testing before animal or clinical studies. This is possible based on current capabilities for the creation of tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs). Using an established method of pressure-sodding human endothelial cells onto a polymer scaffold, a BVM was created in an in vitro bioreactor system under flow. Scanning electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry verified a cellular lining and revealed a luminal monolayer of endothelial cells. After BVM development, bare metal stents were deployed. Stented and unstented BVMs were evaluated using fluorescent nuclear staining and optical coherence tomography (OCT). En face and cross-sectional evaluation of bisbenzimide-stained nuclei revealed cellular coverage of the stent surfaces. Cross-sectional evaluation using OCT also illustrated a cellular layer developing over the stent struts. These data support the use of TEVGs as in vitro BVMs for pre-clinical evaluation of the endothelial cell response to stents and endovascular devices.

Luo, Y., Arauz, L. J., Castillo, J. E., Barton, J. K., & Kostuk, R. K. (2007). Parallel optical coherence tomography system. Applied optics, 46(34), 8291-7.

We present the design and procedures for implementing a parallel optical coherence tomography (POCT) imaging system that can be adapted to an endoscopic format. The POCT system consists of a single mode fiber (SMF) array with multiple reduced diameter (15 microm) SMFs in the sample arm with 15 microm center spacing between fibers. The size of the array determines the size of the transverse imaging field. Electronic scanning eliminates the need for mechanically scanning in the lateral direction. Experimental image data obtained with this system show the capability for parallel axial scan acquisition with lateral resolution comparable to mechanically scanned optical coherence tomography systems.