Optical Imaging

Small Animal Imaging Facility (SAIF)

During optical imaging, bioluminescence and fluorescent light from the visible and near-infrared spectrum is imaged using high-sensitivity cameras to view distribution within the subject. The information is not quantitative and is most effective for regions of interest near the surface of the body.

Optical imaging refers to a group of imaging technologies that operate in the visible light spectrum and has two main categories—bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging. Bioluminescence refers to the inherent process of light emission that naturally occurs in some living creatures, such as American fireflies, the sea pansy and certain bacteria. The DNA responsible for causing bioluminescence was first isolated in jellyfish. In the lab, this DNA can be integrated into a host animal so that certain parts of the animal will glow. This can be useful in monitoring cancer and infection progression in a living organism. Typically, this bioluminescence is not visible to the human eye but specialized cameras are able to capture accurate pictures.

Fluorescence is a process in which molecules are excited by one wavelength of light, which causes them to emit a different wavelength of light. Black lights are a common example. Black light (ultraviolet light) is invisible to the human eye; however, when black light is shown on certain materials they seem to glow. Fluorescence imaging is similar to bioluminescence in that special fluorescent proteins must be integrated into the subject of interest. When a light of a certain wavelength (excitatory light) illuminates these proteins, they emit light of a different color. A specialized camera and filter system can capture the emitted light while filtering out the excitatory light.

Both bioluminescence and fluorescence rely on advanced genetics for integrating the luminescent or fluorescent DNA from these special proteins into a target.

Specific applications include:

  • Drug response
  • Gene expression
  • Signal pathwaysOptical Imaging
  • Prescreening
  • Cherenkov imaging

To request services, please use CrossLab. New users should contact Lori Moon at 616.234.5779 to set up an account. For questions, please contact Bryn Eagleson


Spectral Instruments Imaging AMI-1000

Resolution: 4-6 mm

System features:

  • -90°C, air cooled CCD
  • Bioluminescent imaging
  • Fluorescent imaging
  • Cherenkov imaging
  • X-ray and photo overlay
  • Images up to five mice per scale