Exploring new optical imaging methods

Published: 18 Mar 2015

Author: Israt Alam
Exploring new optical imaging methods

Dr. Israt Alam from Harrow, London, is a biochemist and a Churchill Fellow of 2014. Her Fellowship took the form of an 8-week laboratory project at the Imagopole, a state-of-the-art imaging facility at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

In 2012, Professor Spencer Shorte, a leading expert in optical imaging and Director of the Imagopole, published studies on an optical phenomenon he and his team had discovered and subsequently named Fluorescence by Unbound Excitation from Luminescence (FUEL). In this process, a luminescent source called a donor (e.g. bioluminescent bacteria), produces light that can be absorbed and re-emitted by a second entity that is fluorescent, called an acceptor (e.g. nanoparticles). This transfer of energy can happen over relatively large distances, so could be used to measure macroscopic distances between donors and acceptors (cancer cells engineered to produce light for example and targeted drugs or nanoparticles that are fluorescent).

The aim of Israt’s project was to explore the applications of FUEL in the development of agents for cancer and also in the development of light based diagnostic assays for the detection of pathogens. During her Fellowship she was successful in demonstrating that the FUEL effect can be recreated with human cells, thus paving the way for its use in cancer research. Previously FUEL had only been demonstrated using bacteria.

In Paris, Israt met and worked closely with experts specialising in super-resolution microscopy, microbiology and nanoparticle chemistry. She has since been invited back to the Pasteur Institute to further build on the findings of her Churchill Fellowship, and is planning to promote this area of work to the UK imaging community. 2015 also marks the International Year of Light making it an apt occasion to spread awareness of light-based technologies and research.

Israt hopes to continue working in the imaging field with the motivation of contributing to the development of health technologies in a spirit that is multidisciplinary, collaborative and international.

Contact Israt: israt.alam@cantab.net