Center for Multiscale Imaging of Living Systems (CMILS)

Multiscale imaging of living systems from the atomic to the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and whole organism level is essential for mechanistic in vivo research, biomarker discovery and applications, medical practice, and personalized medicine. UCSD, The Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, the Sanford-Burnham Institute and the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, as well as other research groups in La Jolla have developed significant capabilities in this area. The Center for Multiscale Imaging of Living Systems is organized under the auspices of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine with the goal of expediting the development and application of new imaging methods, promoting interdisciplinary research and applications for funding, and to foster industry-academia relationships in the area of multiscale imaging.

Cmils3 MediumThis image shows microcontact printed fibronectin (an extracellular matrix protein, depicted in green) that has been patterened by photolithography in to the shape of the letters U-C-S-D.

The technology focus encompasses Molecular, Cellular, Organ and Whole Organism Imaging. Under Molecular Imaging, targeted ultrasound contrast, new contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and PET and SPECT radiochemicals for neuroimaging will be applied to elucidate the mechanisms of regulation of cell motility, proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. These contrast agents serve to assess pathological changes including ischemia, inflammation, thrombosis, trauma, necrosis, atrophy and tumors. Under Cellular Imaging, multiphoton microscopy, electron microscopy, intravital microscopy, and sensors based on fluorescent proteins, will be used to elucidate mechanisms of antigen presentation, inflammation, tumor growth and regression, metastasis and angiogenesis. Under Organ and Whole Organism Imaging, targeted ultrasound contrast, functional MRI, small animal MRI, micro-computerized tomography (micro-CT), IVIS near-infrared and biolumionescence, and positron emission tomography (PET) will be used to assess disease phenotypes, quantify lesion progression and recession, and monitor treatment effects.

Multiscale imaging of living systems impacts all areas of medicine, including the cardiovascular system, cancer, neurology, and the musculoskeletal system. New technology development is needed to achieve in vivo molecular imaging on a dynamic timescale in the minute , second and subsecond domains. Coregistration and fusion between modalities as well as morphing remain engineering challenges that need to be tackled to make multiscale imaging truly useful. New reporter systems for in vivo transfection, new molecules to provide contrast, and research into cellular mechanisms of contrast agent interactions require cell and molecular biological approaches.

To support the research activities described above, the Center will establish a web site, hold an inaugural symposium, start a database of imaging modalities, hardware, chemistry and expertise, and submit grant applications for tool-making cores and pilot projects.


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