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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R021252/1
Title: Fast and Flexible Imaging of Excitable Tissues
Principal Investigator: Corbett, Dr AD
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 June 2018 Ends: 31 May 2020 Value (£): 100,929
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Biophysics
Medical Imaging
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
13 Dec 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - December 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Optical microscopy is an essential tool in biology. However, biomedical researchers are limited in the types of problems they can address with the imaging tools available in the vast majority of laboratories. Our understanding of the way in which complex tissues such as the heart and brain function is confined by the capabilities of commercially available light microscopes. Specifically, the limited speed with which cells and other features of interest can be imaged within a three-dimensional volume restricts our understanding of the electrical communication between networks of cells which occur on a broad range of time scales. Acquiring image data from the entire tissue volume is slow and leads to a secondary problem of processing the vast quantities of data to isolate those cells and networks of interest. These technical constraints limit the range of behaviour that can be observed in both healthy and diseased tissue.

This project will for the first time give researchers the ability to efficiently capture user-defined features of interest within a three-dimensional tissue volume. Light sheet microscopy sends a pencil of light into the sample and rapidly sweeps this back and forth to create a sheet of light. A detection lens then focuses on this sheet of light to relay the specimen image back to the science camera. However, by scanning the focus of the detection lens in concert with tilting the sheet of light, it is possible to image the specimen over a wide range of angles without the need to adjust the position of the camera or the detection lens. Previously, to capture two cells within a specimen that are located at different depths, the microscope would capture many images covering the range of depths between the two objects. Much of this information would not be useful. By using a tilted illumination plane, it is possible to capture both cells in a single image. This has several benefits: (i) the data required to see both cells is much smaller and easier to manage (ii) the data does not need to be processed in a computer before being able to see both cells clearly (iii) because the cells can be captured in a single image, they can be observed at much greater speed. This last point is particularly useful when trying to measure electrical communication between two cells, which can happen in just a few milliseconds.

Observing short time scale communication between heart and brain cells is crucial in furthering our understanding of how disease develops and progresses. By providing flexibility in the way microscopes capture images it will provide a new window into the normal behaviour of these excitable tissues and thereby provide clues as to how to limit or stop disease progression through medical intervention.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk