Miniaturized fluorescence microscopes have been registering an exponential use trend in the field of neuroscience. The first devices of this type were developed at Stanford University in 2011. Since then, a few companies have emerged, offering miniature microscopes, each with some modifications and/or improvements to the first innovation. This novel technique is in an incipient stage in the market but represents many advantages over traditional electrophysiology, which is used massively in neurosciences. The microscopes allow the in vivo recording of hundreds of neurons simultaneously instead of tens, with stability of months versus days and the genetic identification of the neuronal population that is being recorded. In general, this device consists of a gradient index (GRIN) lens which is chronically implanted in the brain of an animal by stereotactic surgery, and a device (including excitation LEDs, filters, camera and circuits attached) which is mounted on the animal only when you want to take pictures. Being light, this device (<3 g) allows the animal to move freely. In this way, the microscope takes images of the GCaMP6 protein, fluorescent when calcium is bound, and therefore, it is an instantaneous marker of the electrical activity of neurons. In this new technological trend, the group of researchers is developing in "open labware" format a miniature microscope prototype, based on massive electronic consumption technology. It will introduce new modifications that will make the product more versatile, more accessible and easier to assemble, generating, in addition, a platform to support services and updates to the product.
Neuroscience research: the technique can be adapted to observe fluorescence dynamics within the brain of laboratory animals, by displacement of particles and by modulations in fluorescence intensity, over a period of seconds or months. It can also be used to study blood flow. In the next few years, it is expected that the use of miniature microscopes will be expanded to other areas of research (tumor development, in vivo screening of cellular deterioration) or other local and international applications (high throughput microscopy, clinical trials).
In comparison with the miniature microscopes that are commercialized, the following will be achieved:
- a lower weight and greater versatility of the product due to the improvement of sensors and the associated electrical circuits that are incorporated
- a greater penetration in the tissue and better versatility to protein changes by the improvement in LED system and filters
- greater adaptability to other animals (birds, crabs, etc.) or medical or biochemical applications for high throughput microscopy for the product design that will be made - a substantial improvement in the logistics that will enable its use in laboratories in Latin America.
State of development
The project is in the Proof of concept stage = Technology Readiness Level (TRL) = 3