Five-dimensional two-photon volumetric microscopy of in-vivo dynamic activities using liquid lens remote focusing

Biomed Opt Express. 2019 Jun 26;10(7):3591-3604. doi: 10.1364/BOE.10.003591. eCollection 2019 Jul 1.


Multi-photon scanning microscopy provides a robust tool for optical sectioning, which can be used to capture fast biological events such as blood flow, mitochondrial activity, and neuronal action potentials. For many studies, it is important to visualize several different focal planes at a rate akin to the biological event frequency. Typically, a microscope is equipped with mechanical elements to move either the sample or the objective lens to capture volumetric information, but these strategies are limited due to their slow speeds or inertial artifacts. To overcome this problem, remote focusing methods have been developed to shift the focal plane axially without physical movement of the sample or the microscope. Among these methods is liquid lens technology, which adjusts the focus of the lens by changing the wettability of the liquid and hence its curvature. Liquid lenses are inexpensive active optical elements that have the potential for fast multi-photon volumetric imaging, hence a promising and accessible approach for the study of biological systems with complex dynamics. Although remote focusing using liquid lens technology can be used for volumetric point scanning multi-photon microscopy, optical aberrations and the effects of high energy laser pulses have been concerns in its implementation. In this paper, we characterize a liquid lens and validate its use in relevant biological applications. We measured optical aberrations that are caused by the liquid lens, and calculated its response time, defocus hysteresis, and thermal response to a pulsed laser. We applied this method of remote focusing for imaging and measurement of multiple in-vivo specimens, including mesenchymal stem cell dynamics, mouse tibialis anterior muscle mitochondrial electrical potential fluctuations, and mouse brain neural activity. Our system produces 5 dimensional (x,y,z,λ,t) data sets at the speed of 4.2 volumes per second over volumes as large as 160 x 160 x 35 µm3.