Novel Technology: Imaging Immune Cells
Have you ever wondered how immune cells function in their natural territory? Scientists have discovered a new microscopy technique, in which a time-lapse videography and artificial intelligence technology enables them to non-invasively image and track the activity of immune cells in living animal retinal tissue. Immune cells help the body combat infections and diseases. One of their characteristics is that they are able to quickly travel to where inflammation occurs. Using the new technique, researchers were able to track and image the activity of immune cells responding to injury in an area over the span of two months.
“We think this will be a game changer for ophthalmology and for our understanding of retinal diseases that lead to blindness,” remarks Jesse Schallek, one of the scientists involved in the creation of this new technology.
In the past, there have been several other approaches. One of them was to label the immune cells with fluorescent agents; however, concerns have arisen as to whether or not the fluorescent agents would change the behaviour of the cells. Another approach is to remove cells and study them with a microscope. However, this invades the cells and disrupts them from their natural state. The new technique responds to these concerns by imaging immune cells without using dyes and labelling, as well as not invading the cells.
Immune cells play a large role in the inflammation from retinal diseases that lead to blindness. Until now, there have been limited technologies that can observe inflammation in retinal tissue. For example, optical coherence technology measures the thickness of retinal tissue at the back of the eye, and compares the thickness to determine if there is inflammation. However, optical coherence technology lacks the ability to observe the activity of the immune cells, contrary to the abilities of the new microscopic technology.
This novel technique holds much promise. By using this method, scientists were able to measure blood flow and gain vital information on inflammation in the central nervous system, providing great potential for creating treatments for inflammation. Further, pharmaceutical companies can benefit from this finding by observing the effectiveness of their drugs in the immune system. Currently, Schallek’s lab is adapting this technology for use on human patients.