Major Breakthrough in Fast, Thick-tissue Microscopy Advances Cardiac Tissue Imaging

Achievement date: 

As part of research to advance personalized treatment of heart disease, Boston University (BU) researchers continue to improve new microscope technology they developed to enable better imaging of living tissue. Demonstration of the latest technology—called reverberation microscopy—has been so successful that it is being patented, and plans are underway to license and commercialize it. This work is supported by the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) in Cellular Metamaterials (CELL-MET), headquartered at BU.


CELL-MET’s ultimate goal is to advance nano-bio-manufacturing methods that could lead to large-scale fabrication of functional heart tissue to replace diseased or damaged muscle after a heart attack. A significant challenge in biological research is the dynamic imaging of features deep within living organisms so that cellular structure and function can be analyzed in real-time. To facilitate progress in our understanding of biological machinery, capabilities of optical microscopes are being improved to enable rapid, targeted access deep within samples at high resolution. Multiphoton microscopy (MPM) has enabled unprecedented dynamic exploration in living organisms. The CELL-MET reverberation microscopy technique modifies the MPM instrument to achieve higher speeds (video rate) and deeper penetration. CELL‐MET industry innovation partner (Thorlabs) will take an exclusive license to commercialize the technology.


MPM has gained enormous popularity because of its unique capacity to provide high-resolution images from deep within tissue. The reverberation microscopy technique enables monitoring of neuron groups over large depth ranges and can be implemented as a simple add-on to a conventional microscope design. Paving the way for this advancement, the CELL-MET researchers in 2018 demonstrated the feasibility of reverberation MPM in proof of principle experiments. This advancement, they substantially modified the instrument by increasing its speed to video-rate imaging and rendering it more power efficient so as to extend its depth penetration.