The sub-cellular processes that control the most critical aspects of life occur in three-dimensions (3D), and are intrinsically dynamic. While super-resolution microscopy has revolutionized cellular imaging in recent years, our current capability to observe the dynamics of life on the nanoscale is still extremely limited, due to inherent trade-offs between spatial, temporal and spectral resolution using existing approaches.
We propose to develop and demonstrate an optical microscopy methodology that would enable live sub-cellular observation in unprecedented detail. Making use of multicolor 3D point-spread-function (PSF) engineering, a technique I have recently developed, we will be able to simultaneously track multiple markers inside live cells, at high speed and in five-dimensions (3D, time, and color).
Multicolor 3D PSF engineering holds the potential of being a uniquely powerful method for 5D tracking. However, it is not yet applicable to live-cell imaging, due to significant bottlenecks in optical engineering and signal processing, which we plan to overcome in this project. Importantly, we will also demonstrate the efficacy of our method using a challenging biological application: real-time visualization of chromatin dynamics - the spatiotemporal organization of DNA. This is a highly suitable problem due to its fundamental importance, its role in a variety of cellular processes, and the lack of appropriate tools for studying it.
The project is divided into 3 aims:
1. Technology development: diffractive-element design for multicolor 3D PSFs.
2. System design: volumetric tracking of dense emitters.
3. Live-cell measurements: chromatin dynamics.
Looking ahead, here we create the imaging tools that pave the way towards the holy grail of chromatin visualization: dynamic observation of the 3D positions of the ~3 billion DNA base-pairs in a live human cell. Beyond that, our results will be applicable to numerous 3D micro/nanoscale tracking applications.
Fields of science
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