The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded researchers at Arizona State University a $1 million grant to build a next-generation, 3D imaging microscope, called a “Cell-CT” scanner. The system could perform functional CT imaging of individual living cells.
The technology could allow researchers to observe and assess the cellular function and disease status of living cells, enabling scientists to gain new insights into the metabolic pathways of disease, such as cancer, according to researchers.
Akin to diagnostic CT scanning, the Cell-CT combines hundreds of submicron-resolution optical images taken while rotating a single cell to render a functional 3D image of the cell that reveals metabolic and disease processes in action.
One of the biggest challenges in the Cell-CT scanner’s development is finding the best way to rotate cells precisely without harming them. Initially, two methods will be explored: the first rotates cells in a microfluidic vortex, and the second rotates cells with an infrared light beam. The technology will be validated through comparison studies between Cell-CT scanned cells grown in culture that represent various stages of cancers, and cells taken from human biopsies spanning the same disease spectrum.
The Cell-CT scanner may enable 3D spatial localization of proteins, and assessment of their concentrations in subcellular compartments and microdomains, providing insights concerning relationships between cell structure and function in disease.