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3-D imaging inside living organism, using quantum dots

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Tiny blood vessels, viewed beneath a mouse's skin with a newly developed application of multiphoton microscopy, appear so bright and vivid in high-resolution images that researchers can see the vessel walls ripple with each heartbeat -- 640 times a minute.

The capillaries are illuminated in unprecedented detail using fluorescence imaging labels, which are molecule-size nanocrystals called quantum dots circulating through the bloodstream. Quantum dots are microscopic metal or semiconductor boxes (in this case cadmium selenide-zinc sulfide) that hold a certain number of electrons and, thus, have a wide number of potential applications in electronics and photonics. Writing in the latest issue of the journal Science (May 30, 2003), researchers at Cornell University and a nanocrystal manufacturer, Quantum Dot Corp., report that the nanocrystals are particularly useful for producing high-resolution, three-dimensional images inside living.

"We have demonstrated a new approach to using quantum dots for biological studies of living animals," says Watt W. Webb, Cornell's S.B. Eckert Professor of Engineering and professor of applied physics, co-inventor of multiphoton microscopy (with Winfried Denk) and leader of the experimental imaging team at Cornell.

"Of course, there are easier ways to take a mouse's pulse," says Webb's Cornell collaborator, senior research associate Warren R. Zipfel, "but this kind of resolution and high signal-to-noise illustrates how useful multiphoton microscopy with quantum dots can become, in a biological research context, for tracking cells and visualizing tissue structures deep inside living animals."

Zipfel cited the study of vascular changes in cancer tumors as one possible application, cautioning that the Cornell researchers are not ready to recommend human-medicine clinical applications for quantum dot imaging, in part because some of the best fluorescing nanocrystals have unknown toxicity. However
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Contact: Roger Segelken
hrs2@cornell.edu
607-255-9736
Cornell University News Service
29-May-2003


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