Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging

Fluorescence microscopy – the ability to image specific molecules within living cells – continues to revolutionise and benefit biomedical research and produce new tools and methodologies. The project combines in partnership physics, biology, chemistry, bioengineering and clinical colleagues, with the aim of delivering a functional imaging technology platform based on time-resolved and multi-spectral fluorescence imaging. A Multi-Dimensional Fluorescence Imaging (MDFI) technology with a strong emphasis on Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging ( FLIM ) is being developed and optimised. The functional contrast in living biological systems of this minimally invasive imaging technology is being applied to, and being developed for, cell biology, clinical imaging and drug discovery.

Biological applications

The wide-field fluorescence imaging systems developed simultaneously resolve 2 or 3 spatial dimensions as well as lifetime, wavelength and polarization of the fluorescent signal. Such functional approach has permitted to image, not just the localization of a fluorescent protein, but also the characteristics of its local environment. These novel multi-parameter fluorescence imaging systems are being used to study intracellular organization and inter- and intracellular signaling . The wide-field systems and confocal approaches have been optimized for rapid imaging at much higher frame-rates (up to video rate) .

Optimal excitation of fluorophores and rapid functional imaging of multiple labels has been achieved through a new continuously tunable compact all-solid-state laser technology that provides electronically tunable pulsed laser radiation from ~ 400 – 700 nm – at lower cost than current technologies.

Clinical applications

The origin of intrinsic FLIM contrast in biological tissue has been investigated and correlated with conventional histopathology in order to permit application to clinical practice. The exploitation of differences in autofluorescent properties of biological tissue will increase the throughput and reliability of histopathological screening. A clinically deployable FLIM endoscopic system for in vivo functional imaging has been developed and it will be applied to detect molecular changes arising from diseases such as cancer and osteoarthritis.

Industrial interaction

Several commercial opportunities for FLIM in medicine and high content biology have been identified. The collaboration with several leading industrial partners is converting them in real-world applications of FLIM. The project team is working with several pharmaceutical and instrumentation companies on collaborations, joint ventures and exchange of knowledge.

For further details on this project please see the project website or contact the project manager Raul del Coso Physics Department, Imperial College tel: 020 7594 7755 email: raul.delcoso@imperial.ac.uk

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