Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center


Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center - Research


The faculty research labs housed within the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center are engaged in both technological imaging method development and answering fundamental problems in the life sciences.

The Nimmerjahn laboratory is focused on the innovation of new light microscopic tools that will enable the study of glial cells in the intact mammalian brain. To date, the lab has created tools for cell-type-specific staining and genetic manipulation, as well as imaging cellular dynamics in awake-behaving animals. These tools will allow us to directly address longstanding questions regarding glial cell function in the intact healthy and diseased brain. Resolving these fundamental questions has broad implications for our view of glial cells, the way information is processed in the brain, the interpretation of functional brain imaging signals and the treatment of neurodegenerative brain disease.

The Lillemeier laboratory is concerned with investigating the complex architecture of the plasma membrane as well as its contribution to signal transduction mechanisms in T cells. The lab is developing a combination of super-resolution microscopy based on photoactivation localization microscopy (PALM) with dual-color fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (dcFCS), to study the spatio-temporal distributions and dynamics of membrane-associated molecules on nanometer length scales. Answering these long-standing questions will shed light on the signal transduction mechanisms in T cells, which are thought to regulate the immune response. Understanding how these mechanisms become altered in diseased cells will provide routes to new therapies for auto-immune diseases.

The Cang laboratory is focussed on the development of nanophotonic devices to control, manipulate and detect light. To date the lab has designed and fabricated innovative and novel nano-structures of for biological and medical applications such as contrast enhancement in Spectroscopy-Optical Coherence Tomography (S-OCT) and optical antennas that harvest photons from dye molecules making them brighter and easier to detect. We hope to use these antennas to monitor conformational changes in a single protein molecule in real-time. We also plan to integrate these antennas with our previously developed single-molecule tracking technology to measure how single proteins function and how they are synchronized with other proteins.

Core Facility

The Biophotonics Core Facility, equipped with the latest cutting-edge commercial imaging and data analysis technologies, will provide technical and logistical access to Salk faculty, enabling the integration of imaging tools into biological research programs. Instrumentation that will be available for core use includes: confocal microscopy (both fixed and live cell), TIRF microscopy, two-photon microscopy, electron microscopy and super-resolution microscopy as well as in vivo imaging modalities.