Photonics is a strongly growing sector of the economy and a major research area in Europe. In Thuringia and in particular in Jena, the scientific and industrial location is shaped by universities, research institutes and companies in the field of optics and photonics. While the number of young, well-trained female graduates is high, women who hold a leading position in academia and high-tech industry are still underrepresented.
The work group molecular imaging researches chemical sensitive linear and non-linear spectroscopy approaches for multi-contrast and multi-parameter imaging of biological and biomedical target structures (e.g. viruses, pathogens, tumor cells, tissue sections, organs etc.). The main focus lies on clinical diagnostics and therapy with the final aim of transferring the researched spectroscopic approaches into automated systems with a high technology readiness level (TRL) for clinical applications. These studies are supported by chemometrical investigations to interpret the experimentally observed spectroscopic data.
Within the last years, the work group has made significant progress towards translating spectroscopic approaches particularly innovative Raman methods towards routine clinical applications with focus on infectious diseases and cancer, since these types of diseases represent unmet medical needs with respect to diagnosis and therapy.Raman spectroscopy enables the identification of single microbial pathogens via a chemometric analysis utilizing special databases without the necessity of time-consuming cultivations steps. The application of Raman spectroscopy as a point-of-care approach requires the implementation of innovative sampling technologies.
In this context we developed chip-based microfluidic bacterial isolation strategies directly from complex matrices (e.g. blood or other body fluids like urine, sputum, ascites). Furthermore, also the characterization of bacteria – drug interaction as a first step towards antibiotic susceptibility testing has been realized. All these investigations towards a targeted therapy of infectious diseases has been transferred into an automated setup (BioParticle Explorer) for use in clinics.
Another focus of the research group is the spectroscopic detection of tissue pathologies, predominantly focusing on the intraoperative delineation of tumor margins. Thereby it could be shown that the combination Raman approaches with other spectroscopic techniques in a multimodal imaging approach is very beneficial for improving the diagnostic result of Raman spectroscopy. We could demonstrate the great potential of a multicontrast-microscopy approach combining the spectroscopic modalities CARS (Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering), TPEF (Two-Photon Excited Autofluorescence) and SHG (Second Harmonic Generation) for quickly imaging the tissue morphochemistry of frozen section biopsy specimens with significant histopathological information. This approach has been transferred into a compact CARS/SHG/TPEF multimodal nonlinear microscope in combination with novel fiber laser sources for use in clinics. Multimodal CARS/TPEF/SHG imaging in combination with advanced image processing algorithms offers great potential to complement established clinical pathological diagnostic tools and to augment standard intraoperative clinical assessment with multimodal images to highlight functional activity and tumor boundaries.