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UC Berkeley researchers are developing a microsized microscope that can peek inside living cells

Berkeley - Imagine a future where doctors can view the DNA of tumor cells inside a patient as cancer drugs are delivered, or where anti-terrorism units can identify single molecules of a biowarfare agent on site with a portable detector. With a significant development in miniaturized microscopes at the University of California, Berkeley, scientists are inching closer to such possibilities.

Luke P. Lee, assistant professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley, and his doctoral student Sunghoon Kwon have captured an image of a plant cell with a microlens smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

"It's shrinking a million dollar machine down to a size that can balance on the tip of a ballpoint pen," said Lee, who presented the results at a recent International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems. "The microlens and scanner we've made is a crucial part of a microscope that is 500 to 1,000 times smaller than anything in its class."

In testing the accuracy of the microlens and scanner, Kwon placed a cell sample taken from a flowering lily, Convallaria majalis, onto the platform of a conventional confocal microscope. Without moving the sample, they captured a cross-sectional image of the cell wall, first with the traditional microscope, then with the microlens scanner. They found that the two images matched, showing for the first time that his microscopic lens could perform as well as a conventional one.

"Honestly, we were shocked," said Lee, who also is co-director of the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center. "What we've finally shown is a proof of concept. We have tested only 2-D images now, but it's just a matter of time and manpower before we get the first 3-D image."

The microlens and scanner are part of a device Lee is developing called the micro confocal imaging array, or micro-CIA. The micro-CIA belongs to a group of devices known as Bio-Polymer-Opto-Electro-Mechanical-Systems, or BioPOEMS. Invented by Lee, B
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scy@pa.urel.berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
13-Mar-2002


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