Novel optical imaging methods to visualize inflamed organs and the immune system in autoimmunity

Lead: Omar Abunofal
Team Members: Camille Artur and Jack Guo
Co-mentor: Drs. Mayerich, Reddy

Project Summary:

Biomedical imaging is an important field in the medical industry, and emerging imaging modalities could accelerate disease diagnosis. This project, undertaken under the mentorship and collaboration with Drs. Mayerich and Reddy in UH Electrical Engineering focuses on imaging biological specimens using novel modalities. Our current aim is to develop an imaging platform that involves the use of UV light for imaging biological samples. The imaging system is referred to as microscopy with ultraviolet surface excitation (MUSE). MUSE allows biological samples to be imaged without the need for the traditional tissue fixation and sectioning steps, which consume time.  Various approaches are being used to eventually derive 3D reconstructed images of the organ with minimal processing. This approach is being applied to organs that are commonly inflamed in autoimmune diseases.

What is already known in the field?

  • It has previously been established that MUSE facilitates block-face imaging. Previously, we have been able to image biological samples such as the brain and kidney using the MUSE system by only imaging the surface of thick, half-cut samples.
  • By examining the pathology in various organs, the disease course of autoimmunity can be predicted. What we need are quick and easy ways of assessing the degree of pathology in inflamed organs.

What is new?

The proposed imaging platform is relatively new although more data is needed to establish its functionality. The idea of having a microtome in front of an imaging system has been previously implemented in other studies but it is not widely utilized. Moreover, having a microtome in front of a UV based imaging system is new. Also, the imaging system would enable Z-stacking, which provides more information about the biological specimen at various depths.

Why is this important?

The current imaging modalities that enable 3D imaging are relatively expensive and complex. The proposed imaging system achieves affordability and simplicity.  The imaging system can be designed to be portable. Hence, handling it would be easy and convenient. Above all, it has the potential of being used in clinical diagnostics.

Ongoing/future steps:

  • All parts of the imaging system are being optimized, including the lens, objective, and other imaging parameters.
  • Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded biological samples will be used to test the functional utility of the system.
  • Healthy and disease-afflicted tissues from autoimmune mice will be imaged to identify any morphological differences.