Watching living cells in action

Female radiographer checking results of MRI scan in hyperpolorisation imaging facility
01 Dec 2011 10:47:04.487


Leading experts from around the globe are to gather at The University of Nottingham’s China campus to discuss breakthroughs in technologies that help scientists to see inside living cells with unprecedented detail and also to look within the human body at a microscopic level.

The 2011 International Conference on Functional Optical Imaging is taking place at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China, on the 3rd and 4th of December.

Hosted by the University’s Institute of Biophysics, Imaging and Optical Science (IBIOS), it will focus on state-of-the-art optical imaging technologies so sophisticated that they can allow researchers to study individual cells within the body.

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Innovations in biomedical imaging technologies are driving forward new diagnostic tests, allowing treatment to be given at a much earlier stage for a range of serious medical conditions and improving outcomes for patients.

Professor Paul O’Shea, Co-Director of IBIOS said: “Building on our successful conference in 2009, we are looking forward to welcoming some of the world’s leading experts in the optical imaging sciences to our China campus. The imaging sciences have moved beyond simply taking pictures of cells and we are now in a position to visualise the many complex functions of cells, particularly those associated with disease. These tasks involve international co-operation and so we hope the conference will allow strong working links to be established between the Nottingham teams and these international groups.”

Among the highlights of the conference will be:

• New super-resolution approaches to biomedical endoscopy
• Enhanced time sensitivity for measuring cellular processes
• Simplifying biomedical measurements by removing the need to label diagnostic molecules

The event will also feature a showcase of the wide ranging research currently being conducted at IBIOS, including projects to develop new diagnostic devices for serious medical conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases.

One major focus of the institute’s research is new technologies to detect Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia affecting more than 830,000 people in the UK alone. While there is currently no cure, there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease but these can often rely on early diagnosis.

Nottingham researchers are developing a low-cost, easy-to-use instrument that will detect the presence of a unique combination of biomarkers from a simple blood test, allowing doctors to carry out diagnostic tests for the disease in clinics.

IBIOS, based at Nottingham’s University Park Campus in the UK, was established in 2007 and brings together an internationally unique combination of research disciplines spanning engineering, science and medicine to tackle the challenges presented by the next-generation of biological and biomedical sciences.

The University of Nottingham has put biomedical imaging for medical diagnosis at the heart of its research priorities, centring on further developments in Medical Resonance Imaging (MRI), a technique which garnered the Nobel Prize in medicine for The University of Nottingham’s Sir Peter Mansfield in 2003.

Using MRI to understand the Developing Brain is a key project within the University’s new appeal, Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, which is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.

MRI has revolutionised diagnostic medicine, with more than 26 million investigative procedures carried out each year. It promises a second revolution by providing an entirely non-invasive tool with which to explore the human brain. The University of Nottingham is applying radical innovations in brain-imaging techniques and image analysis to establish the first brain image database of the typically developing brain in childhood. Such a database is crucial to understanding how atypical patterns of brain development lead to the psychiatric and neurodegenerative illnesses to which children and adults are increasingly susceptible.

Building up a picture of how children’s brains develop will lead to earlier diagnosis, reliable prediction of clinical outcomes and more successful treatment for children with developmental brain disorders; this will have a significant impact on their quality of life and wellbeing.

University researchers are focusing their efforts on a number of biomedical imaging themes including MRI at ultra-high –field, hyperpolarisation techniques for the diagnosis and management of lung diseases, physiological measurement and applications to pathology and multimodal imaging.

Functional imaging research at the University is soon to be expanded at its Ninbgo, China, campus with the recent opening of a new Science and Engineering Building.

Professor Nick Miles, Provost and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China, said: “This conference will be an opportunity to discuss and debate the state-of-the-art in optical imaging methodologies which provides such outstanding exquisite information at the cellular level.

“The University has long recognised the importance of cross disciplinary research to deliver major benefits to society both nationally and internationally. The spirit of IBIOS and the conference resonates perfectly with this vision and we are excited that this meeting has attracted support from learned societies and companies.”

The two-day conference has been sponsored by IEEE, the IEEE Photonics Society, the Optical Society (OSA), the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), the British Biophysical Society, the Institute of Physics (IOP) Biological Physics Group, Lambert Instruments and NKT Photonics.

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit:

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

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Story credits

 More information is available from Professor Paul O’Shea by email at or Jackie Hadland, Communications Officer at The University of Nottingham Ningbo, China, on 0086 (0) 574 8818 0940,


Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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