Recently the world of microscopy has witnessed a true revolution in terms of increased resolution of fluorescent imaging techniques, including a Nobel Prize in 2014. Yet, these techniques remain largely locked-up in specialized laboratories as they require bulky, expensive instrumentation and highly skilled operators.
The next big push in microscopy with a large societal impact will come from extremely compact and robust optical systems that will make high-resolution microscopy highly accessible and as such facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of diseases or disorders caused by problems at the cell or molecular level, such as meningitis, malaria, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, it will pave the way to DNA analysis as a more standard procedure, not only for the diagnosis of genomic disorders or in forensics, but also in cancer treatment, follow-up of transplants, the microbiome, pre-natal tests, and even agriculture, and archeology.
“Compact, high-resolution and high-throughput microscopy devices will induce a profound change in the way cell biologists do research, in the way DNA sequencing becomes more and more accessible, in the way certain diseases can be diagnosed, new drugs are screened in the pharma industry, and healthcare workers can diagnose patients in remote areas,” said Verellen, senior photonics researcher and project leader at imec.
The topic of Verellen’s ERC grant is the development of Integrated high-Resolution On-Chip Structured Illumination Microscopy (IROCSIM). This new technology is based on a novel imaging platform that integrates active on-chip photonics and CMOS image sensors.
“Whereas existing microscopy techniques today suffer from a trade-off between equipment size, field-of-view, and resolution, the IROCSIM solution will eliminate the need for bulky optical components and enable microscopy in the smallest possible form-factor, with a scalable field-of-view and without compromising the resolution,” noted Verellen.