The objective of this paper is to perform a comprehensive experimental and numerical study to analyze short pulse laser propagation through animal tissue samples and phantoms with inhomogeneities imbedded in them. Initially a parametric study of different absorption and scattering coefficients of the tissue phantoms and of inhomogeneities imbedded in them, size and location of the inhomogeneities is performed in order to optimize the time resolved optical detection scheme. Tissues can be modeled primarily as having two main layers-skin and the underlying muscle. To study the interaction of light with the tissue layers, experiments are next performed on freshly excised rat tissue samples to validate the time varying optical signatures of rat skin and muscle with the numerical model. The next step is to perform in vivo imaging of anaesthetized rats with tumors injected on the skin as well as below the skin surface in order to test the optical detection scheme. The goal is the detection and characterization of tumors in rats.

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