Establishment of the Center
Imaging is a key technology of the 21st century in the field of basic science and medical/industrial applications. TUS has a large variety of research specialists; this is a great advantage for producing innovative imaging devices, materials, and techniques by interdisciplinary collaborations. Thus, in 2011, we set up the Imaging Frontier Research Division for the purposes of (i) the promotion of collaborative research by exchange of information about mutual studies and (ii) the enlightenment of young scientists and students. Based on the activities of this Division, now we have launched the Imaging Frontier Center(IFC) to build a base for creating cutting-edge core technologies for imaging. In this Center, we will execute a close feedback between the technical development by researchers in physics, chemistry, and engineering and the verification studies by life scientists in order to develop novel imaging technologies which have a large spillover effect on basic and applied sciences.
To realize fluorescence imaging at deep observation depths we propose to develop imaging technology using infrared light in the wavelength range over 1000 nm (OTN), which would exclude any obstacles in the observation pathway (Fig. 1). We also plan to clarify the mechanism by which an aqueous reagent makes biological samples optically transparent and develop a transparency technique to remove the autofluorescent material in subcellular organelles in plant cells, which can obstruct the image. The members will share such background removal technologies and undertake application research in the fluorescence imaging of animals and plant cells.
Fig. 1 Blood vessel imaging of mouse
In addition, we are planning to develop an imaging system that will present in vivo visualization of the reaction, the temperature, and the hardness as multidimensional information, which is not possible to do using current techniques. For elemental technology, we will develop a laser-induced surface deformation method enabling the measurement of the dynamic properties of the cell and its organization, and a fluorescence nano-thermometry for temperature imaging of the cell. Furthermore, we will make a fluorescent probe for visualizing the multidimensional information including enzymatic reactions using complex chemistry and biotechnological techniques (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 FRET sensor for visualizing ON/OFF reaction of the G protein
Based on these technologies, we will develop an imaging system that can display information about a living body, showing entities such as blood vessels, living tissue, and organs in real time, which can be used to diagnose and clarify types of cancer, cranial nerve disease, and immunological diseases. We will also develop imaging systems for visualizing reactions, and the temperature and hardness of micro-fine structures in a living body, and for visualizing farm products without autofluorescence of the plant. An outcome of the Center will be the creation of innovative diagnostic systems that will contribute to the promotion of life innovation and green innovation, increasing the health and reinforcing the competitiveness of agriculture in Japan.
The Center aims to create a responsible imaging technology to meet demands of specialists of various fields of life sciences as imaging users. For achieving the aims, we are attempting close communications among specialists from various scientific and engineering research fields and those from life sciences. Accordingly, the Center consists of both of the users and designers of bioimaging technologies. The Center expects close interdisciplinary collaboration for the enhancement of the development of the key technologies. Collaboration among the members of other divisions or centers in the RIST, as potential users or designers, is also encouraged. The members will also collaborate with researchers in other universities or institutes not only for cutting-edge research but also to organize workshops or training courses on bioimaging, which will promote the development of a center of excellence of the bioimaging in TUS.
Expected Outcome and Spreading Effect
Now that the whole genome information for various species of organisms has been analyzed, live imaging technology, with which dynamics of biomolecules and their interactions inside living cells can be studied, is essential to a broad range of research and development in life sciences. In this Center, fully integrated interdisciplinary research, including laser technology, innovative fluorescence probe technology and live-imaging of various organisms including animals and plants, will be undertaken to develop innovative imaging technologies for use worldwide. We expect breakthroughs to be made in the life sciences using innovative live imaging technologies. TUS offers this potential methodology to the world community, and will contribute to the training of forward-looking young scientists and students to gain a broad knowledge in both material and life sciences and technology.
Future Development Goals
To develop novel live imaging technologies and demonstrate their useful applications to observe living cells and biomolecules
Live imaging is a key technology for making progress in various fields of life science research. TUS has a good research system where a wide range of specialists can collaborate in this interdisciplinary field. In this Center we will develop innovative live imaging technologies towards the next-generation of life sciences.