WE-FG-BRA-04: A Portable Confocal Microscope to Image Live Cell Damage Response Induced by Therapeutic Radiation




To construct a custom and portable fluorescence confocal laser-scanning microscope (FCLSM) that can be placed in the path of therapeutic radiation beams to study real-time radiation-induced damage response in live cells.


We designed and constructed a portable FCLSM with three laser diodes for excitation (405, 488, and 635 nm). An objective lens focuses the excitation light and collects fluorescence from the sample. A pair of galvanometer mirrors scans/collects the laser beam/fluorescence along the focal plane (x/y-directions). A stepper motor stage scans in the axial direction and positions the x/y of the image field. Barrier filters and dichroic mirrors are used to route the spectral emission bands to the appropriate photodetector. An avalanche photodiode collects near-infrared fluorescence; a photodiode collects back-reflected 635 nm light; and a photomultiplier tube collects green fluorescence in the range of eGFP/eYFP. A 200-µm diameter pinhole was used to implement the confocal geometry for near-infrared and red channels and a 150-µm diameter pinhole for the green channel. Data acquisition and system control were achieved using a high-throughput data acquisition card. In-house software developed in LabVIEW was used to control the hardware, collect data from the photodetectors and reconstruct the confocal images.


6 frames/s can be acquired for a 25 µm2 (128×128 pixels) field of view, visualizing the entire volume of the cell nucleus (∼10 µm depth) in <10 s. To demonstrate the usefulness of our FCLSM, we imaged gold nanoshells in live cells, radiation-induced damage in fibrosarcoma cells expressing eGFP tagged to a DNA repair protein, and neurons expressing eGFP. The system can also image particle tracks in fluorescent nuclear track detectors.


We developed a versatile and portable FCLSM that allows radiobiology studies in live cells exposed to therapeutic radiation. The FCLSM can be placed in any vertical beam line for top-to-bottom exposures.

This research was supported by the Sister Institution Network Fund and the Center for Radiation Oncology Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Gabriel Sawakuchi has research support from Elekta Inc.