Limited by the sensitivity and resolution of conventional microscopy techniques, the regulatory mechanisms of major cellular processes largely remain unclear, including cancer metabolism and neuronal action potential propagation and modulation.
To solve the unmet need, Hyeon Jeong Lee is developing high-precision imaging at the single-cell level with high spatial and temporal resolutions to understand how cells molecularly live and communicate to cure cancer and neural diseases.
She developed a series of novel molecular vibrational spectroscopic imaging techniques to acquire bio-molecular information in situ, tackling the challenges of label-free imaging for life sciences by achieving subcellular level functional imaging. These technical developments have helped to solve problems in neuroscience, cell metabolism, and oncology.
One of Dr. Lee's research accomplishments is establishing a new label-free voltage imaging for tracking neural activities. She innovatively designed a high-speed stimulated Raman imaging method, which directly measures the molecular properties of the membrane. This new technique greatly increased the sensitivity and specificity; therefore, it was used to demonstrate single action potential imaging in single mammalian neurons without any fluorescence label. As a first in the field, this achievement made a big impact in several research fields such as biophotonics, biophysics, and life science.
The new imaging technique developed by Lee has allowed various applications in different scientific disciplines. In cancer biology, the new cancer therapeutic target and molecular mechanism discovered through the new imaging technique received broad attention and were introduced as significant progress in cancer metabolism studies in multiple review articles.
In neuroscience, the new imaging techniques were expected to play important roles in revealing the fundamental mechanism of how neurons communicate through electrical signals.
New techniques offered various advantages over commonly used voltage sensors and fluorescence approaches, including minimal sample preparation, low toxicity, high temporal resolution. Importantly, the techniques were considered as a powerful alternative to the current imaging techniques.