You are here

Real-Time, Label-Free Protein Secretion Imaging

The US Naval Research Laboratory seeks a partner to license and commercialize an innovative technique that provides real-time and label-free imaging of cellular protein secretions using commercially available microscopes

Image Right
  Standard glass coverslip (top) fabricated with multiple arrays of gold nanostructures are used for LSPR imaging of cellular protein secretions. Individual array AFM scan (middle) and multiple arrays w/ cells (bottom)
Standard glass coverslip (top) fabricated with multiple arrays of gold nanostructures are used for LSPR imaging of cellular protein secretions. Individual array AFM scan (middle) and multiple arrays w/ cells (bottom).
The Technology: 

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a patent pending technique to visualize protein secretions from single cells in real time with a spatial resolution of less than 10 nm. Protein secretions are known to play a central role in cellular communication, yet secretion dynamics are not well understood, since current imaging techniques utilize fluorescent labeling with nonspecific spatial resolution and require time-intensive experimental procedures (1-3 days). The spatial and temporal characteristics of cellular protein secretions dictate the response of neighboring cells and are critical inputs to processes such as wound healing, immune response, and angiogenesis.  

The NRL technology provides high spatial resolution protein secretion imaging in real time and integrates seamlessly with standard wide-field and confocal light microscopes. Protein imaging is enabled through use of a standard glass coverslip containing a lithographically patterned array of gold nanostructures that are functionalized to bind to the protein of interest. The secreted proteins may be imaged on a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera due to a shift in localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of the nanostructures upon binding. Through controlled functionalization of the nanostructures, secreted proteins may be readily quantified from a wide range of cells including neurons, blood cells, and epithelial cells, among others.

Benefits: 
  • Provides real-time, quantitative measurements of secreted protein concentrations at the single cell level
  • Seamless integration to commercially available light microscopes
  • Widely applicable to commercially available light microscopes
The Opportunity: 
  • US Patent Applications 14/039,326 and 14/207,927, and international patent applications PCT/US2013/062189 and PCT/US2014/025316 are available for license
  • Collaboration with NRL researchers is available under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)
Contacts: