Developing Novel Imaging Techniques

The mysteries of biology are becoming clearer thanks to major advances in technology.

Ever since Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek first observed the crowd of microbes occupying a drop of water in the 1670s, researchers have been using microscopes and other imaging technologies to learn about organisms and molecules that would otherwise be impossible to study. To this day, the ability to visualize the structure and behavior of chemicals like DNA or viruses like HIV continues to play a vital role in biomedical science.

IRP researchers not only utilize imaging technologies to make fundamental discoveries about biology but also develop numerous cutting-edge visualization methods themselves. The NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, for instance, has made crucial improvements to polychromatic flow cytometry, which is now being used to study the action of the hormone leptin, the relationship between cholesterol and inflammation, and the effect of HIV infections on immune cells. Brand-new techniques created by IRP investigators enable doctors and researchers to monitor the behavior of individual proteins, track DNA-swapping events that can lead to cancer, pick up on previously undetectable heart attacks, and reveal the physical makeup of important molecules in unprecedented detail.

The IRP’s focus on collaboration spurred it to make large investments in imaging infrastructure, including facilities that provide access to advanced neuroimaging, optogenetics, and spectroscopy technologies, among many others, and several NIH Institutes and Centers also house their own imaging cores that are accessible to researchers across the IRP. This combination provides every IRP scientist with direct access to the most advanced imaging technologies available.

Partnerships between the IRP’s world-class bioengineers, biophysicists, computational biologists, and bench scientists are still producing groundbreaking enhancements to our ability to investigate what cannot be seen with the naked eye. In the future, the IRP will continue revolutionizing clinical and molecular imaging by:

  • Discovering new targeted probes for detecting and tracking a wide variety of molecules
  • Creating new brain imaging technologies
  • Generating new methodologies for non-invasive patient assessments
  • Developing rapid three-dimensional microscopic imaging techniques

Explore these pages for more information about the past, present, and future of IRP research on imaging:

Check out all 12 of the domains in which we are Accelerating Science to learn about how IRP scientists are tackling important biomedical challenges.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, January 12, 2022