Researchers at The Australian National University, including ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient and biomedical optics engineer, Dr Steve Lee, an associate investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, have built an advanced microscope that can film moving blood cells and neurons firing in living animals in real-time.

The innovation developed by Dr Lee’s team is a modernised polygon mirror microscopy system with advanced electronics and software controls. Their invention doubles the imaging speed of conventional scanning microscopes on the market. The microscope uses a ‘barcode’ scanning mirror device with up to 36 mirror facets to scan a high quality laser beam across the biological sample in a few thousandths of a second.

Dr Lee is now developing an industry partnership with a life science company in Melbourne, under Innovation Connections (AusIndustry), to commercialise the advanced microscope in Australia. In addition, Dr Lee has also secured a Global Connections Priming Grant (through the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering) to collaborate with a US-based industry optics partner to further expand the capability of the advanced microscopy system by integrating new active micro-optics devices.

This advanced microscope is much more flexible than other microscopes. It can be sped up or slowed down to capture live neurons firing rapidly in the brain or slow moving cells in a blood stream. This allows scientists to analyse complex medical problems, ranging from blood disorders and cancer to neurological disorders.

Image: Dr Steve Lee, from The Australian National University Research School of Engineering, with the microscope.
Image courtesy: Stuart Hay / The Australian National University.