New microscope illuminates 3D landscape of living tissue in real time for clinicians

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BRAIN-supported technology development holds promise for clinical applications.

The invention of the microscope a few centuries ago began to reveal unprecedented "microscopic" details of living tissue that transformed our understanding of life. Since then, ever more powerful microscopes along with clever ways to color living tissue with dyes have been indispensable for researchers and clinicians alike. However, the complexity of these microscopes, and the need for dyes, have been a bottleneck for the quick examination of living tissue for clinical applications. A compact bench-top microscope developed by a group of engineers at Columbia University led by Dr. Elizabeth Hillman overcomes these hurdles and reveals in real time dye-free three-dimensional images of living tissue. This technology, called MediSCAPE, has the potential to provide clinicians critical time-saving information for numerous medical applications at point of care. 

Development of this microscope was supported by funding from the NIH BRAIN Initiative, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and National Cancer Institute (NCI). MediSCAPE’s design builds on a microscope called Swept Confocally Aligned Planar Excitation Microscopy (SCAPE), whose development was also supported by the BRAIN Initiative. SCAPE was originally developed for researching living tissue in the laboratory, and the development of MediSCAPE adds to the storied history of how investments in fundamental research and technology development yield unexpected dividends for clinical applications. The original study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on March 28, 2022. More details and beautiful videos of living tissue can be found at the NIH Research Matters website here