NIST’s strong expertise in optical methods provides the underpinning for a number of measurement assurance and technology development activities in the organization that serve the diagnostics, clinical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries.
The use of optical technologies in clinical diagnostics and product development often requires certification of instrument performance for regulatory requirements or as part of a quality control process, and reference materials and standard methods are essential for instrument performance benchmarking and calibration.
Our efforts include wavelength standards for spectrometers, and methods for benchmarking fluorescence intensity for flow cytometry and microscopy. Our work in development of advanced imaging technologies is focused on transitioning this technique, which has been central to biological sciences for centuries, from a qualitative to a quantitative method.
We are developing rapid label-free methods of chemical imaging of complex biological and materials systems using Broad Band Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopic (BCARS) imaging, and high resolution Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) imaging for imaging cell-material interactions. Our BCARS program has advanced vibrational spectroscopic imaging to unprecedented levels of sensitivity, making it possible to acquire functional molecular information in living cells. We have demonstrated that SPR imaging, which allows spatially resolved interfacial refractive index changes, can provide spatial resolution that allows the dynamic tracking of cell-secreted proteins and focal adhesions.
We also develop methodologies for collecting quantitative image data on large numbers of individual live cells to assess, for example, stochastic fluctuations in gene expression within a population. We develop strategies for visualizing and analyzing large data sets, often in collaboration with our Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), and use these data in developing predictive models. We also work to provide highly qualified image data and metadata as reference datasets for public use.