Where would biomedicine be without optics?

By Kyle Quinn

Much of the emphasis in biomedical optics research has been placed on the clinical translation of our technologies -- and rightfully so!  As my fellow blogger Dr. Ken Tichauer indicates, the potential impact in the clinic is great and the future remains bright.  But as we gear up for OSA BIOMED 2014 in Miami, I will be excited to learn about some of the latest applications in basic science research where biomedical optics continues to play a key role. The field of optics has provided researchers advanced tools that are needed in a variety of other disciplines to optimize complex laboratory protocols, to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of disease, and to speed the preclinical development of novel therapies. 

Over the past 25 years, techniques such Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF), and super-resolution microscopy have been developed and become common tools in biology.  FRET has commonly been utilized to provide information on protein interactions and cell signaling pathways in different biomedical applications.  TPEF has enabled imaging with deeper light penetration and minimal photo-damage compared to confocal microscopy, and accordingly has been adopted by neuroscientists interested in high-resolution in vivo brain imaging.  Additionally, super-resolution techniques, such as STORM and STED, are providing unique insight into dynamic biological events like synaptic transmission between neurons.  Although you may not find these optical technologies in your local clinic (yet), they have provided unique insight into fundamental biological processes and the underlying mechanisms of disease or trauma.

So what is the latest optical technology under development for use in basic science research and beyond?  The OSA BIOMED 2014 chairs have devoted an entire topic category to this forefront of research in biology, called: Biophysics, Biology and Biophtonics:  the Crossroads.  Among the topics, will be optogenetics- a technique that Science Magazine highlighted as one of the biggest breakthroughs of the last decade.  Through the laser stimulation of light-activated proteins expressed in in the brains of transgenic mice, optogenetics has led to a variety of new insights into how our neural circuitry works.  I look forward to learning of the latest advances in not only optogenetics, but other emerging fields where optics meets biology, including: neurophotonics, genomics, cytomics, and molecular biophysics.  Please be sure to join us in Miami from April 26-30 as we explore these hot applications and others in biomedical optics!


Image credit: Cerebral lobes.png
Wyglif / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL v.1.2 or later


Posted: 10 February 2014 by Kyle Quinn | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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