Photoacoustic imaging, with the capability to provide simultaneous structural, functional, and molecular information, is one of the fastest growing biomedical imaging modalities of recent times. As a hybrid modality, it not only provides greater penetration depth than the purely optical imaging techniques, but also provides optical contrast of molecular components in the living tissue. Conventionally, photoacoustic imaging systems utilize bulky and expensive class IV lasers, which is one of the key factors hindering the clinical translation of this promising modality. Use of LEDs which are portable and affordable offers a unique opportunity to accelerate the clinical translation of photoacoustics. In this paper, we first review the development history of LED as an illumination source in biomedical photoacoustic imaging. Key developments in this area, from point-source measurements to development of high-power LED arrays, are briefly discussed. Finally, we thoroughly review multiple phantom, ex-vivo, animal in-vivo, human in-vivo, and clinical pilot studies and demonstrate the unprecedented preclinical and clinical potential of LED-based photoacoustic imaging.
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