Label-free imaging of living cells, including ER and mitochondrial cristae
The study of living systems, from cells, to small animals, to humans, is enabled by advanced instrumentation. For each major advance in our understanding of biology, a new instrument has preceeded that discovery. Only considering Nobel-winning instrument techniques, there is the Zernike microscope, electron microscope, fluorescent proteins, PCR, and super-resolution microscopy. At the department of precision machinery and precision instrumentation we are working together with our School of Life Sciences and First Affiliated Hospital to accelerate the next generation of biological and medical discoveries.
For example, In the MBIT laboratory, Prof. Kaiqin Chu has developed a high resolution, high speed phase imaging microscope that acquired the first ever label-free images of the endoplasmic reticulum, as well as the first report of “mitochondrial spinning” in liver cancer cells (J. Biophotonics 201900011). Without the need for fluorescent labels, cellular structures can be observed over long periods of time with no concerns over phototoxicity or photobleaching.
Prof. Zachary Smith from the MBIT laboratory, in collaboration with Anhui Medical University, is studying a new topic in medicine and biology, extracellular vesicles, which are ~100nm particles released by cells to communicate with and alter their local cellular environment. He has developed a laser-tweezers microscope that captures individual vesicles and study their Raman and elastic scattering characteristics, giving panoramic characterization of their chemical and morphological heterogeneity. He has found, for example, that cancerous vesicles and those from healthy cells have distinct chemical signatures that could be used in the future as a minimally invasive biomarker (J. Extracell. Ves. 4(1), 28533, Analytical Chemistry, 92(7), 5585-5594).