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Hopkins Researchers Explore Super-Resolution Microscopy


Two Johns Hopkins University researchers have published a new article in Nature Photonics, a premier optics and physics journal produced by Nature Publishing Group.

Gary Brooker and Nisan Siegel co-wrote the article “High-magnification super-resolution FINCH microscopy using birefringent crystal lens interferometers,” which appears in the December issue of the journal. Brooker is a research professor with the Whiting School of Engineering; Siegel is an assistant research scientist with Whiting. They both work in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Brooker also is the president, founder and chief executive of CellOptic, which has its offices on the JHU Montgomery County Campus; Siegel also works for the company. Brooker and Siegel collaborated on the article with Vladimir Lupashin and Brian Storrie, cell biology experts who are professors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science.

Years ago, CellOptic developed a technology and holographic imaging principle called FINCH, which stands for Fresnel Incoherent Correlation Holography. FINCH is able to record 3D images. It has double the resolution of classical microscopy. Brooker says FINCH is at least 10 times faster than the alternative technology and is simpler to use.

In the Nature Photonics article, Siegel and Brooker describe a new advance in optics that they have applied to FINCH. Using a FINCH microscope with new birefringent lens technology, human cells stained for three different proteins were studied. Using a 100x objective lens, the FINCH microscope was able to show previously unresolvable sub-resolution proteins in the cells’ Golgi apparatus. This was the first demonstration of super-resolved holographic imagining at high magnification.

The FINCH equipment can be used by investigative scientists and by medical professionals. FINCH is expected to allow researchers and medical experts to image cellular ions and proteins in real time and in higher resolution than classical methods. This will improve research methods and could enable medical professionals to make more accurate diagnoses and prescribe more precise treatment regimens. The speed of the FINCH microscope is important so the dynamics of a live cell can be examined.

“Nisan and I want to do something that is useful to mankind, to research and ultimately to clinical medicine,” Brooker said. “With this new technology that we developed, we expect to have entrée into a whole host of medical applications.”

The instrument development research was funded by a National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute SBIR grant to CellOptic. The Golgi imaging work is supported by a NIH collaboration grant to Johns Hopkins University and collaborators at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Through funding to CellOptic, the company also is developing a commercial prototype for the FINCH super-resolution microscope. Plans are in place, Brooker said, to put the technology into five research centers across the country, including the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore and at the JHU Microscopy Center at the Montgomery County Campus.


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