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Dipartimento di Fisica - Politecnico di Milano

Paola Taroni

Paola Taroni's picture
Full Professor
Campus Milano Leonardo
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- Born in Como, Italy, in 1963.
- Graduated in Nuclear Engineering at Politecnico di Milano in 1987.
- Visiting scientist at “G.Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory”, MIT, Cambridge MA, from 1987 to 1988.
- Researcher for the National Council for Research (CNR) from 1988 to 1999.
- Associate Professor of Physics at Politecnico di Milano from 1999 to 2010.
- Full Professor of Physics at Politecnico di Milano since 2011.
- Head of the PhD Program in Physics at Politecnico di Milano from 2013 to 2018.
- Co-author of more than 130 scientific papers on international refereed journals and of an international patent (“A method for laser induced fluorescence of tissue”). H-index = 41. Scopus Author ID: 7006474645.
- Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA) since 2017 and of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) since 2020.
- Council officer of the American Society for Photobiology from 2000 to 2003, of the European Society for Photobiology from 2005 to 2009, and of the Italian Society for Photobiology from 1998 to 2004.
- Member of the Advisory Board of the European Society for Photobiology since 2007.
- Member of the scientific committee of Biomedical Topical Meetings of the Optical Society of America (OSA TOPS) in 2000, Conference on Lasers and Electrooptics (CLEO) Pacific Rim in 2001, Conference of the European Society of Photobiology in 2003, 2005 and 2007, European Conference on Biomedical Optics in 2009, Cancer Imaging and Therapy, part of OSA BIOMED in 2016, Diffuse Optical Imaging, part of Laser Applications in Life Sciences (LALS2020) in 2020, Clinical Biophotonics, part of SPIE Photonics Europe in 2020.
- Conference Chair of international conferences: "Diffuse Optical imaging", part of the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) in 2011, 2013 and 2015; Laser Applications in the Life Sciences (LALS) in 2014; Gordon Research Conference on Lasers in Biology and Medicine in 2016; “Optical Tomography and Spectroscopy of Tissue XIII” (Conference 10874), part of BiOS (Photonics West) in 2019 and 2021.
Program Chair of the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) in 2017; General Chair of the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) in 2019.
- Associate Editor of Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences since 2003, Optics Express from 2008 to 2014 and Biomedical Optics Express from 2010 and 2014. Medical Editor of JNIRS-Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy since 2016.
- Referee for several international journals (Academic Radiology, Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy, Journal of Physics D, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, Physics in Medicine and Biology, Journal of Biomedical Optics, Journal of Biophotonics, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Physiological Measurements).
- Project Coordinator, H2020 Project "SOLUS - Smart Optical and Ultrasound Diagnostics of Breast Cancer" (Grant Agreement n.731877, 2016-2021)
- Scientific Responsible of the Research Unit at Politecnico di Milano in the national project (Bando Fondazione Cariplo, Ricerca Scientifica – Ricerca Biomedica 2016) “MAYBE - Multicomponent Analysis of physical frailty BiomarkErs: focus on mitochondrial health” (2017-2020).
- Workpackage Leader in the EU Project “Optical Mammography: Imaging and characterisation of breast lesions by pulsed near-infrared laser light” (Optimamm), 2000-2004 and scientific responsible of national projects funded by the National Council for Research, Italy (Progetti Finalizzati and Progetti Coordinati).

Her research activity concerns mainly the development of laser systems for time-resolved spectroscopy and imaging, and their applications in biology and medicine.
In particular, she has developed a system for time-gated fluorescence spectroscopy with picosecond resolution and has applied it to the photophysical characterization of various endogenous (e.g. blepharismin) and exogenous (e.g. hypericin) pigments and photosensitizers (e.g. porphyrins and phthalocyanins) for the photodynamic therapy of tumors (PDT). She has also been engaged in the optimization of therapeutic protocols for PDT. More recently, she has been working on the detection of tumors with time-resolved fluorescence imaging. In particular, she contributed to the development of a portable system and to its clinical application to the diagnosis of skin lesions (by means of the detection of Protoporphyrin IX fluorescence induced by the topical application of 5-aminolevulinic acid, ALA). She has also characterized in the temporal and spectral domains the fluorescence properties of fullerol (water-soluble fullerene derivative) incorporated in human cells, to investigate the intracellular distribution and cytotoxicity of those nanoparticles, that are studied for applications in medicine and other fields.
Since several years ago, her interests include and mostly focus on light propagation in highly diffusive media (“photon migration”), and in particular time-resolved reflectance and transmittance spectroscopy for the non-invasive optical characterization of turbid media, such as biological tissues. In this line, she has contributed to the development of a system for the assessment of the absorption and scattering properties of turbid media. The system is fully automated and operates continuously from 600 and 1100 nm. It is unique at international level and is part of the European Facility “Center for Ultrafast Science and Biomedical Optics” (CUSBO), funded by the EU programs FP5 and FP6. The system allowed - for the first time - the measurement of the absorption and scattering spectra of various biological tissues “in vivo” over a broad spectral range. In particular, she performed the first optical characterization of bone tissue “in vivo” in the red and near infrared, as a first promising step toward the development of a non-invasive optical technique for the diagnosis of osteoporosis. She has also monitored non-invasively physiological changes occurring in breast tissue during the menstrual cycle, of interest for optical mammography.
Using the same instrumentation, within the EU project “Diffruit” (“Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy for the evaluation of fruit and vegetables internal quality”), she has also worked on the first optical characterization of different types of fruits, opening a new field related to the non-destructive evaluation of the internal quality of horticultural products.
Paola Taroni contributed to the development of the first prototype of time-resolved near-infrared oximeter and to its application to the monitoring of hemoglobin content and oxygen saturation in muscle under exercise.
She is also deeply involved in the development and application of time-resolved transmittance imaging techniques, with particular attention to breast cancer detection (optical mammography). Within the EU project “Optimamm”, she contributed to the design and realization of a prototype of optical mammograph operating in the time domain at several (4 to 7) wavelengths in the 637-985 nm range. The instrument, unique at international level, was tested in a clinical trial on 200 patients with malignant and benign lesions and provided information on breast tissue composition and structure that is useful to identify the detected lesions. The mammograph was then further upgraded, extending also the spectral range from 635 to 1060 nm, to increase the sensitivity to collagen content in tissues, and has been applied at the European Institute of Oncology (Milan) in a clinical trial with two-fold aim: i) the optical characterization of malignant and benign breast lesions; ii) the non-invasive optical assessment of breast tissue density, which is a well-known risk factor for developing breast cancer. The study, which has recently ended, has enrolled 218 patients and obtained promising results on both aims.
She coordinates the H2020 project SOLUS – “Smart Optical and Ultrasound Diagnostics of Breast Cancer” (2016-2020), for the development of a multimodal imaging system, combining multi-wavelength time domain diffuse optical tomography, conventional B-mode ultrasound imaging and quantitative shear wave elastography, with the aim of improving the specificity of breast screening and reducing the high number of false positive invasive assessments.
She contributed to the development of a portable instrument for time-resolved diffuse optical spectroscopy in the range of 600-1350 nm, suitable for use in a clinical environment.
She is also involved in the optical characterization of tissue constituents (elastin, thyroglobulin, etc.) of interest for non-invasive medical diagnostics and physiology studies by diffuse optical means.