6th Advances in Photonics Tools and Techniques for the Life Sciences




Exhibition Opens


Welcome & Introduction

SESSION 1 : Nanotech Imaging for Neuroscience


Nanodiamond as a multi-photon compatible fluorophore for biological imaging

Dr Brian Patton, University of Strathclyde, UK

Diamond presents much promise for biological applications; its stability means it is biocompatible and does not photobleach, unlike most dyes. Nanoscale sized particles of diamond have been shown to be small enough to allow endocytosis. Furthermore, the presence of optically active defects in the diamond structure, such as the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) defect, allow optical addressing of individual nanodiamonds. There is much interest in using the NV centre as a nanoscale sensor for biologically generated electromagnetic fields. We are developing superresolution microscopes to allow characterisation of the optical properties of nanodiamond in living tissue, such as the sensitivity of the optically active defects to small electromagnetic fields. In this talk I will present our latest results demonstrating multi-photon excitation of nanodiamond coupled to computational super-resolution imaging. This opens up the possibility of imaging nanodiamond deep in tissue.

Graeme Johnstone and Gemma Cairns


Single-nanoparticle tracking in the brain in physiological conditions

Dr Juan Varela, University of St. Andrews, UK

Single-molecule detection and tracking techniques have become powerful tools to study the dynamics of biological events. While organic fluorophores can be used for single-molecule imaging in cultured cells, thick tissue experiments require much brighter probes. In high background noise environments such as the brain, nanoparticles offer great potential for high-resolution imaging due to their brightness and small size. It is critically important to be able to develop and adapt imaging techniques in such a way that they can be used to unravel molecular information with minimal bias from the sample preparation.

I will present our recent work where for the first time we succeeded tracking single-molecules in rodent acute brain slices, and discuss how single-molecule diffusion studies compare across different brain preparations. I will also describe as well how we can use carbon nanotubes to study the extracellular space of the brain at the nano-scale.


Juan Varela studied physics in Uruguay and did his PhD in Ireland at the Centre for Bio-Nano Interactions, University College Dublin. He subsequently did a postdoc at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Neurosciences in Bordeaux (France), and a second postdoc in neurodegeneration at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge (UK).


Juan has recently established his research group at the University of St Andrews funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant. His main research interests are the use of nanotechnology and high resolution microscopy to understand and cure neurodegenerative diseases.


Advanced technologies in light microscopy

Dr Ruediger Bader, Photon Lines Ltd

In this talk I will give a very brief summary of the equipment I work with on a day-to-day basis. I will focus on STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) technology from Abberior Instruments,  the leading innovator, developer and manufacturer of STED superresolution microscopes. Their instruments are designed by the inventors of the method, including Abberior’s co-founder, Nobel Laureate Prof. Stefan W. Hell. They offer STED-microscopes with unprecedented resolutions down to 20 nm.


Abberior Instruments has a strong focus on custom microscopy solutions and is committed to providing extensive and long-term upgrades for its instruments. For example the STEDYCON, which is a completely new class of nanoscope, converts your conventional epifluorescence microscope into a versatile four-colour confocal (405nm, 488nm, 561nm, 640nm) and STED (775nm) system, whilst being both compact and extremely easy to use.


I will also talk about the features of the newly released Facility Line, including easy3D STED and DyMIN.


Synaptic pathology of Alzheimer's disease: an array Tomography-FRET microscopy approach

Dr Martí Colom-Cadena, University of Edinburgh

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia worldwide. Studies of postmortem brain tissue of AD cases reveal characteristic pathological aggregates of amyloid beta in extracellular plaques and tau in intracellular neurofibrillary tangles.  These pathologies are thought to contribute to disease pathogenesis; however, the mechanisms leading from protein aggregation to neurodegeneration remain unclear. The loss of synaptic connections is the strongest pathological correlate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease and recent work indicates that pathological aggregates influence synapse degeneration.

The visualization of single synaptic terminals in postmortem human brain tissue together with pathological aggregates poses a difficult technical challenge. The size of synapses and small aggregates fall below the diffraction limit of light making traditional immunofluorescence colocalization studies difficult. In this talk we will explore the use of array tomography microscopy to overcome these limits. This technique combines light and electron microscopy techniques, collecting 70nm ultrathin consecutive sections of the tissue, staining them with immunofluorescence, and using image analysis to identify single synaptic terminals and the proteins they contain. We will highlight some uses of this technique and how it can be combined with super-resolution imaging to observe synaptic changes in AD. 


He obtained a degree in Biology at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and a master degree in Biomedicine at the same university.Since 2011 develops a PhD investigating the relation between pathological proteins from a neuropathologic point of view, at brain regions level as well as at synaptic level. He have been investigating in groups related to neurodegenerative diseases during research internships in the Trinity College of Dublin, in Ireland, and the University of Edinburgh, in United Kingdom.


His main scientific aim is the study of neurodegenerative diseases - and especially the Lewy body diseases - in human brain tissue by applying traditional and advanced microscopy techniques.

He completed his Doctoral Thesis in 2017, and in 2018 he moved to the Centre for Discovery of Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh to course a postdoctoral fellowship.


Refreshments & Exhibition Time

SESSION 2 : Novel microscopy platforms


High-speed and high-content 3D light sheet fluorescence microscopy

Dr Christopher Dunsby, Imperial College London, UK

Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) has low out-of-plane photobleaching and phototoxicity and enables high-speed and long-term imaging of live biological samples. Conventional LSFM configurations employ two microscope objective lenses orientated at 90° to one another. The first objective is used to generate an illumination light sheet and the second objective is used to collect fluorescence from the illuminated plane. We present the design, development and application of two different types of LSFM system.


The first system is based around a conventional LSFM configuration and has been designed to study calcium dynamics in heart muscle cells. This system is flexible, in order to enable samples to be imaged in a range of orientations, and provides high speed video-rate volumetric imaging as well as lower speed imaging at a higher spatial resolution.


The second system uses an alternative approach where a single high numerical aperture objective lens is used to provide both the fluorescence excitation and detection. This method, called oblique plane microscopy (OPM), is implemented on a standard fluorescence microscope frame to rapidly image volumes with subcellular resolution. We present the development and application of a stage scanning OPM (ssOPM) approach for light sheet fluorescence imaging of arrays of samples in commercially available 96 and 384-well plates.

Chris Dunsby is a joint lecturer between Photonics, Department of Physics and the Division of Experimental Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London. His research interests are centred on the application of photonics and ultrafast laser technology to biomedical imaging and include multiphoton microscopy, multi-parameter fluorescence imaging and fluorescence lifetime imaging.


Real-time optical manipulation of cardiac conduction in intact hearts

Dr Caroline Muellenbroich, University of Glasgow, UK

Optogenetics, a combination of targeted light and gene delivery, has provided novel insights in cardiovascular research. Interventions like cardiac pacing and cardioversion have clearly demonstrated cardiac manipulation using light. A want of current methodologies, however, is the possibility to react to cardiac wave dynamics in real time. Here, we present a platform for optical mapping and optogenetic stimulation of intact mouse hearts to monitor and control electrical activity in a closed-loop approach. The system comprises a wide-field mescoscope with a digital projector for customizable optogenetic activation. Cardiac function can be manipulated either with sub-millisecond temporal resolution in free-run mode or else in a closed-loop fashion where the platforms allows for real-time intervention within 1ms. We applied the closed-loop approach to simulate a re-entrant circuit across the ventricle demonstrating the high versatility of our system to manipulate healthy heart conduction towards arrhythmogenic conditions. This platform promises an exciting new approach to investigate the (patho)physiology of the heart.

I studied physics at the University of Heidelberg, Germany and obtained my PhD from the Institute of Photonics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 2012. I then joined the Biophotonics group at the European Laboratory for Nonlinear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence, Italy as a post doc in 2013 to implement confocal light-sheet microscopy for structural whole mouse brain imaging and then later functional calcium imaging in Zebrafish. From 2016 on, I was a researcher with the Italian National Institute of Optics, part of the Italian National Research Council where I worked on non-diffracting beams and cardiac optogenetics. Since September 2018, I am a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. I teach electrodynamics and electronics to first year Physics students and research cardiac imaging and optogenetics.

SESSION 3 : Cancer dynamics

13:30   KEYNOTE

Oncoprotein activation and dynamics in Cancer - a quantitative imaging approach

Professor Banafshé Larijani, Director of the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation, University of Bath, UK

Currently there is a transition point in cancer research, towards a need for a more profound understanding of molecular heterogeneity in various types of tumours as well as a sensitive and specific quantitative methodology for analysis of the activation status of biomarkers. Therefore, we developed of an innovative, portable approach to assess proteomic heterogeneity as well as activation status of biomarkers, which is a crucial contribution to the field of cancer research.

To date studies of endogenous proteins using various imaging tools have been limited due to the lack of sensitivity. Our methodology is able to identify molecular heterogeneity of an established oncoproteins, between different regions of interest within the same tumour core and between various cores within the same patient. We have sought to explore the clinical relevance and molecular mechanisms underlying the activation of oncoproteins in different carcinomas.


Our findings have the potential of determining a quantification parameter for molecular heterogeneity with a high degree of specificity, a major advance in cancer proteomics and diagnosis.

Banafshé Larijani is the Director of the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI). Her laboratory, Cell Biophysics, is currently bridged between the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at University of Bath and The Biophysics Institute (Instituto Biofisika) at the University of the Basque Country, Spain.  Since 2002 she was Head of Cell Biophysics Laboratory at Cancer Research UK, was appointed Senior Scientist in 2012 and in 2014 was awarded an Ikerbasque Research Professorship where she moved her laboratory to the Biophysics Institute and the Research Centre for Experimental Marine Biology and Biotechnology (PiE) Bilbao, Spain. She holds adjunct professorships with Stony Brooks University NY and University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA, (USA).

Professor Larijani's laboratory is a cutting edge cross-disciplinary platform, which draws upon the physical sciences to develop novel avenues for investigation of biological processes in signalling. Her laboratory has led to paving a unique path by investigating the role of phosphoinositides and their metabolites, both as second messengers and as modulators of membrane morphology. The outcomes of her fundamental research involving the application of quantitative imaging (FRET-FLIM) for investigating molecular mechanisms of phosphoinositide-modifying and phosphoinositide-dependant enzymes have resulted in their application to various clinical objectives.


Reliable tracking of 3-dimensionally moving sub-micron sized particles within photosensitive live-cells

Dr (Associate Prof) Viji Draviam, Queen Mary University London, UK

Reliable tracking of 3-dimensionally moving sub-micron sized particles within photosensitive live-cells is a challenging microscopy problem. I will narrate technical challenges faced and potential solutions being developed for high-speed high-resolution live-cell imaging of dividing human cells. In addition to the technological advances, conceptual advances made on how cell division is regulated will also be presented.

Viji Draviam is a quantitative cell and molecular biologist developing and employing microscopy techniques to study highly photo-sensitive processes in live-cells. Viji’s research has contributed to the discovery of molecular regulatory principles that govern human cell division.

Following a PhD at the Gurdon institute and Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School (USA), Viji started her research group as a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellow at the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge (2008-15). Viji’s group moved to the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL in 2015 (see http://www.draviamlab.uk/).


Re-creating the Sky - The advent of tuneable  LED lighting technology

Dr Neil R Haigh, ColorDyne Ltd, UK

The advent of tuneable spectrum LED lighting technology has led to the rapid growth of spectrally agile lighting products and systems capable of delivering photobiologically active levels of optical radiation, usually with multiple spectral outputs encompassing the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum.  The technology is leading to novel research and development, and light-based applications in areas such as photodynamic therapy, dermatology, horticulture and human centric lighting (HCL).  In many of these lighting systems, there is a general desire to mimic as closely as possible, the spectrum of natural daylight both for reference purposes, including calibration as well as for certain applications such as photodynamic therapy. 


This presentation describes recent advances in tuneable spectrum LED lighting technology, including the development of a novel, modular light source hardware and software platform (the ColorDyne ‘CYCLO-18’) that features an ability to tune the emitted light spectrum from across the UV, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum to match a given specific target ‘action spectrum’.   The software control system allows the user to readily adjust the spectral output of the lamp to match any given spectrum, and the modular design of the hardware platform is scalable from a desk lamp sized unit to ‘whole-of-room’ ambient lighting.  Furthermore, by using rapid prototyping disciplines such as 3D printing it is possible to tailor the hardware system design specifically, on demand as may be needed for certain installations and applications.


Picosecond lasers for high precision, minimally invasive surgery

Dr (Associate Prof) Jonathan Shephard, Heriot Watt University, UK

Picosecond pulsed lasers offer significant advantages for high precision, minimally invasive surgery over existing techniques. Surgical methods employing conventional electrocautery tools or utilising continuous wave or long pulsed lasers are prone to higher degrees of thermal damage. We have demonstrated that using a picosecond laser greatly improves the localisation of the surgical zone with improved lateral confinement and precise depth control. Surgical procedures on delicate and vital structures within the human body require this high precision to minimise necrotic tissue margins, avoiding severe complications and preserving function.


If this picosecond laser energy can be easily delivered to where the action of the laser is required within the body, it opens up new routes for minimally invasive surgical therapies. This however is challenging as optical damage and non-linear effects severely limit peak powers that can be transmitted via conventional, solid core optical fibres. To overcome this, we have developed novel, hollow-core optical fibres which can deliver picosecond pulse energies previously unattainable. They have a small diameter, are highly flexible and can deliver adequate power for the ablation of hard and soft biological tissue. Such fibres are mechanically and chemically robust and have significantly outperformed the current state-of-art technologies for laser delivery in surgery.

Dr Shephard’s research (Applied Optics and Photonics) is currently targeted at number of areas: New laser processes for medical therapies and surgery; Developing novel optical fibres for high power laser delivery; and Technologies for integrating lasers into manufacturing processes working closely with industrial partners and clinical end users. He is currently leads an EPSRC Healthcare Impact Partnership grant in collaboration with clinicians at the University of Leeds to develop a fluorescence guided laser tool for bowel cancer surgery and is an investigator on the EPSRC Platform grant “Multimodal Manufacturing of Medical Devices”. Dr Shephard received the BA degree in Engineering at St Johns College, Cambridge University and then joined Pilkington Plc working within R&D. He returned to study within the Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield and carried out his PhD on developing novel mid-IR transmitting optical fibres and waveguides. In 2003 he joined Heriot-Watt University, working on the development of novel micro-structured (Photonic Crystal) fibres, and is now a Reader within the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences.


Application of stimulated Raman scattering for measurement of intracellular drug distribution

Professor Valerie Brunton, Chair of Cancer Therapeutics, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy in tandem with bioorthogonal Raman labelling strategies has emerged as a powerful means to visualise intracellular uptake of drugs and small-molecules. We have developed novel, highly Raman active spectroscopically bioorthogonal labels, for the sensitive and specific intracellular visualisation of small-molecules. Spectroscopically bioorthogonal Raman detection in the “cellular-silent’ region presents an optimal region for drug imaging, as there is minimal contribution from endogenous cellular biomolecules thus improving detection sensitivity.


An iterative strategy of Raman-label design and validation has identified minimally perturbative bis(alkyne) labels with approximately 60-fold increase in Raman scattering activity, compared to the mono-alkynes previously used. Combining SRS microscopy with this biorthogonal Raman labelling approach enables direct visualisation of drug uptake to be correlated with markers of cell cycle status, and mapped across intracellular structures using a multi-modal imaging platform.

Will Tipping, Kristel Sepp, Martin Lee, Alison N Hulme, Valerie G Brunton

Prof Brunton gained her BSc Hons in Pharmacology from the University of Aberdeen. After being awarded her PhD in 1990 she moved to the Department of Medical Oncology at the University of Glasgow with Prof Paul Workman and spent three years working on the preclinical development of EGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. She then moved to the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research as a post-doc with Prof Margaret Frame where she worked on the role of the non-receptor tyrosine kinases Src and FAK in tumour cell progression. She has been involved in both the preclinical and clinical development of FAK and Src inhibitors, and continues to work on the development of these and other targeted agents since taking up her position as head of the Cancer Therapeutics group at the ECRC in 2008. She was appointed as chair of Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Edinburgh in 2013.


End of Programme - Ice Creams in the Exhibition Hall


Poster Session and meeting with the exhibitors in the exhibition hall. 
A poster prize will be awarded at 16.30 for the best poster.


End of exhibition and event

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Poster Session

Join this event as a presenter of a poster. Poster prizes to be won!

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Tel: +44 (0)1372 750555

Programme Organiser:

Brenda Hargreaves

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Photonex Europe | 7th & 8th October 2020 | Ricoh Arena, Coventry