QuantIC awards £187k to further advance 3D imaging deep in biological tissue

Published: 10 March 2021

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QuantIC awards £187k to further advance 3D imaging deep in biological tissue

Lucia Caspani

QuantIC has awarded their first Accelerated Development Fund grant of £187k to improve biological 3D imaging.  The team, led by Dr Lucia Caspani from the University of Strathclyde, will be working with colleagues Dr Matteo Clerici and Dr Caroline Müllenbroich from the University of Glasgow to develop a new technique enabling 3D imaging of even the most fragile and delicate specimens.

Many pioneering advances in medicine and biology require observation of the microscopic world with high resolution and without damaging the specimen. One of the most widespread techniques used for this purpose is multiphoton fluorescence microscopy, which allows full 3D imaging via “optical sectioning” i.e. imaging of planes within the sample, without the need for physical slicing.

The project will focus on overcoming a major limitation of this technique. Dr Caspani said

“The current issue with multiphoton fluorescence microscopy resides in the excitation of fluorescence. The lasers required are so powerful that they can damage or alter delicate biological samples. In our project we aim to exploit the unique properties of quantum entanglement to improve the probability of exciting fluorescence by several orders of magnitude. We expect our quantum enhanced microscope to require illumination powers ~1000 times lower than the classical counterpart, enabling 3D imaging of even the most fragile and delicate specimens”.

Experimentalists around the world are testing this hypothesis and the race is on to the development of the first quantum-enhanced fluorescence microscope. Such a microscope should maintain the strengths of a standard multiphoton fluorescence imaging system (high 3D resolution and molecular specificity) yet with an increased penetration depth and signal-to-background ratio. These advantages could enable deeper imaging at low illumination levels, giving access to sub-cortical brain regions that are fundamental for studies into learning, memory and degenerative neural conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Prof Steve Beaumont, QuantIC Director said:

“This is a very exciting project, and it is the first award that QuantIC has made from its new Accelerated Development Fund. We are always looking for projects that address a demonstrable industrial or societal need and feed the pipeline of technology to be translated into industrial applications and commercial opportunities through the Hub.”

Launched in 2020, the Accelerated Development Fund has total budget of £2M and is designed to bring new imaging research ideas into QuantIC.  The 2021 funding round is now open for applications. Further information can be found on the QuantIC website.

First published: 10 March 2021