Precision chemical measurements in living biological systems
In biology, seeing is believing. Optical microscopy is one of the most powerful discovery tools in modern biology and medicine. However, to date, it is still quite challenging to perform optical spectroscopy measurements in biological tissue due to the lack of well-defined optical beam path as a result of light scattering in tissue. The information obtained from optical microscopy are thus either qualitative or semi-quantitative by limiting sample thickness to <10 um. Therefore, there is tremendous needs for further development of microscopy techniques to allow quantitative measurements of molecular and functional processes in biology.
We focus on developing novel optical spectroscopy and microscopy techniques to perform quantitative measurements of chemical species in living biological systems. Towards that end, we combine ultrafast laser spectroscopy with advanced optical instrumentation to create high sensitivity, high speed laser scanning microscope to probe inhomogeneous biological systems. We apply precision chemical measurements to various disease models (such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic diseases etc. in C. elegans, zebrafish, or mice) as well as tissue from human patients to provide insights into detailed mechanism of disease progression, to develop more accurate and cost-effective early disease diagnosis tools, and to implement new drug-screening methods. In particular, we are interested in understanding cancer metabolism at single cell resolution and studying brain function and neurological diseases through previously inaccessible chemical measurements.