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Deep Tissue Probe Imaging using Quantum Dots

The US Naval Research Laboratory seeks a partner to license and commercialize a novel technology that utilizes quantum dots to illuminate glass pipettes for use in targeted deep tissue and neuronal electrophysiology experiments

Image Right
In vivo pipette visualization using the conventional dye-based approach (left) versus the QD coated probe (right) in brain tissue at depths of 0 nm (top), 250 nm (middle), and 500 nm (bottom). Laser power is indicated for each depth and configuration.
The Technology: 

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a patent pending, quantum dot (QD) based multiphoton fluorescent pipette that enables high precision, targeted neuronal electrophysiology in deep tissue with minimal photothermal tissue damage. Precision pipette placement is absolutely critical during electrophysiology recording, as the 1-2 nm diameter pipette tip must carefully breach the target cell in order to isolate the cellular electrical response. The conventional imaging technique utilizes a fluorescent dye, continuously expelled from the pipette tip upon approach, creating poor visibility from dye accumulation and requiring significant laser power to induce fluorescence—even at moderate depths. High laser power induces rapid tissue damage, resulting in short lived and limited experiments.

The NRL technology uses standard borosilicate glass pipettes, coated with semiconducting QDs that brightly fluoresce under minimal laser power. Whereas the dye-based approach is limited to shallow depths to prevent tissue damage, the QD coated probes provide continuous visualization at depths of over 500 nm while using ~70% less laser power, thus allowing for longer and more controlled experimentation.   Using 625 QD coated pipettes, successful in vivo experimentation has been achieved at depths surpassing 750 nm.

Benefits: 
  • Applicable for cells deep within a tissue for in vivo and ex vivo experiments
  • Enables longer experimentation due to reduced laser power
  • Continuous and precise probe visualization while allowing simultaneous electrophysiology recordings and cellular binding measurements
The Opportunity: 
  • US Patent Application No. 14/173,652 and international patent application PCT/US2014/014928 are available for license
  • Collaboration with NRL researchers is available under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)
Contacts: