Virtual Reality High-Resolution Expansion Imaging of Infectious Disease
Caroline Stefani of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and Yongxing (Leon) Zhao of Carnegie Mellon University both in the U.S. will build an imaging platform combining expansion microbiology and confocal virtual reality to visualize complex host-pathogen interactions in infected tissues to help develop new diagnostics and therapeutics. It is the molecular interactions between the host and the pathogen, both in tissues and inside cells, that ultimately dictate whether an infection takes hold or is destroyed. Identifying these interactions could help develop new treatments. However, they remain difficult to study in sufficient resolution. They have developed a new method for three-dimensional visualization of confocal microscopy images using commercial virtual reality technology to pinpoint the subcellular localization of host-pathogen interactions. They will combine this with a new technique, expansion microscopy optimized for microbiology (ExMicro), which visualizes nanoscale details of dozens of different molecules in infected tissue by embedding it in a polyacrylate-based polymer that can be expanded in pure water to improve resolution. They will develop protocols and software to optimize both methods for studying host-pathogen interactions, and build a platform to share their new toolset with the scientific community.