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  • Carl Zeiss, Cornell to Collaborate
Jun 2004
NEW YORK -- Biomedical microscopic imaging deep inside living tissue with unprecedented clarity could become routine and widely available with the recent signing of technology transfer and collaborative research agreements by Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH, a maker of microscopy instrumentation, and the Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization (CCTEC), the technology, enterprise and commercialization arm of Cornell University.

The license for two-photon laser microscopy (also known as multiphoton microscopy and protected by patents dating back to July 23, 1991) was recently transferred from the British firm Bio-Rad Laboratories with the sale of its UK-based confocal microscopy business to Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH.(See "Carl Zeiss Buys Bio-Rad Unit")

Last Friday, Carl Zeiss also signed collaboration and development agreements with Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., and with multiphoton microscopy co-inventor Watt W. Webb, a biophysicist, professor of engineering and director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Developmental Resource for Biophysical Imaging and Opto-electronics at Cornell. Co-inventor Winfied Denk is a director of Germany's Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research in Biomedical Optics.

Multiphoton microscopy produces high-resolution, 3-D images of tissues -- in the central nervous system, for example, or in precancerous cells -- with minimal damage to living cells. The procedure begins when extremely short, intense pulses of laser light are directed at cells below the surface. The rapid-fire nature of multiphoton microscopy increases the probability that two or three photons will interact with individual biological molecules at the same time, combining their energies. The cumulative effect is the equivalent of delivering one photon with twice the energy (half the wavelength, in the case of two-photon excitation) or three times the energy (one-third the wavelength in three-photon excitation) to illuminate the smallest details.

Initially developed at Cornell to enhance basic biological research, multiphoton microscopy is proving to be a marked improvement over existing biomedical imaging techniques.

"Our research is focused on developing the potential of the technology, as well as on applying it to solve 'impossible' biological problems," Webb said. "Apart from imaging deep in the tissue, multiphoton microscopy and nonlinear
optics have several advantages for breakthrough applications in biomedical research."

One such application combines multiphoton microscopy with fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (invented by Webb and by Elliot Elson and Doug Magde decades ago) to measure the dynamics of biomolecular processes of sparse biomolecules in living cells, Webb said.

"Another surprisingly useful feature [of multiphoton microscopy] is imaging of the intrinsic fluorescence of biomolecules deep in living plant and in animals, where it can diagnose many disease states."

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