Oliver Bruns leading an international consortium funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

SWIR imaging of a glioma labelled with quantum dots (green). Arteries (red) and veins (blue) labelled with intravasculare contrast agent.

SWIR imaging of a glioma labelled with quantum dots (green). Arteries (red) and veins (blue) labelled with intravasculare contrast agent.

Fluorescence microscopy (FM) is the current gold-standard method for resolving deeply-located subcellular features in vivo. However, tissue scattering and interactions with endogenous chromophores (which decrease resolution and limit imaging depths) greatly impair the exploitation of its full potential.

Consequently, when it comes to basic biological questions, for example in neuroscience, immunology or cancer research, most current techniques are highly invasive, prone to infection and not applicable to major organs of interest such as lungs, pancreas or liver. Thus, novel approaches that can tackle these limitations are urgently needed.

While recent developments towards fluorophores in the short wave infrared region (SWIR) helped to overcome some of the obstacles of fluorescence imaging, bright fluorophores with high quantum yields for this region are still missing.

The international consortium headed by HPC PI Oliver Bruns will now develop a SWIR-based technology platform and undertake a multifaceted development program to boost the performance of infrared fluorophores by up to two orders of magnitude. The synergy of the team builds upon its core expertise in small molecule probe development (Ellen Sletten, UCLA), optical engineering (Christopher Rowland, Imperial College London) and biomedical application of SWIR technologies (Oliver Bruns, HPC) and combines novel optical schemes with the creation of innovative new dyes to pioneer short-wave infrared multiphoton microscopy.

Success in this endeavor will dramatically broaden the range of imaging-accessible organs and tissues in the future, thus paving the way to answers for significant numbers of hitherto unsolved basic biological questions.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative acknowledged this inspiring and innovative approach with a grant amount of 1 Mio USD for a two-and-a-half-year pilot phase. Successful consortia can apply for the next phase funded with 10 Mio USD for four more years.

The Helmholtz Pi­o­neer Cam­pus is an innovation campus with a startup culture at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. HPC stands for the intelligent fusion of biomedical sciences, engineering and digitization. Teams of top scientific talents from all over the world work together on the development of novel solutions that makes a difference in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. HPC aspires the values of Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), a physician and physicist, polymath and science pioneer.

Congratulations to winning such a highly competitive, international award!

Link to press release of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: