SLUG REPORT > From vast outer space to the smallest components in the human body, researchers at UC Santa Cruz are striving to see life on a closer level. Thanks to a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, they are nearing their goal.
The grant will go towards a new Center for Adaptive Optical Microscopy, in which scientists will use technology generally used by astronomers to build better microscopes for seeing deep within human tissue, so that they can learn more about biology and disease.
Co-investigator William Sullivan, professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at UCSC, explained how the advancements could be helpful in making insights more clear.
“We can get beautiful images of cells close to the surface of the tissue, but if you want to go deep you’re out of luck because of the degradation of the image. That was the motivation for this project,” he said in a July 26 press release from UCSC. “For cell biologists, anything that improves imaging is a big deal, and this has the potential to open up vast areas of cell biology that have been opaque to us.”
This branch of microscopy is called adaptive optics (AO), and was founded at UCSC in 2006 by a group of biologists, astronomers, and optical engineers working together across their different disciplines. Sullivan noted that such advancement was somewhat unique to UCSC’s way of doing things.
“This is the kind of project that UCSC does really well,” he said in the press release. “I couldn’t have done this at a medical school, because they don’t have astronomers and engineers next door.”