In Vivo Optical Imaging for Immune Response


Cells of the immune system play a critical role in defence against invading microorganisms. Conventional histological analysis can provide protein expression level better than cell morphology and location. In contrast, intravital imaging shows a great potential in monitoring the dynamic process of the immune response, from cell–cell interactions to cell–molecule interactions. In particular, in vivo optical imaging can track the dynamics of the immune response with high spatiotemporal resolution. This article introduces the development of in vivo optical imaging for immune responses in various tissues and organs, using different imaging windows.

Key Concepts

  • Immune response is a physiological process of the immune system against antigen stimulation. It is a complicated dynamic response including activation of immune cells and the effect of immune‐mediated factors.
  • Intravital multiphoton imaging has the advantages of lower photobleaching and phototoxicity, deeper imaging depth and subcellular resolution, which is a significant tool for visualisation of cell–cell and cell–molecule interactions under pathophysiologic conditions.
  • Microglia, as a sentinel, participate in the immune response of the brain, whose immune behaviour plays an important role in the brain function and brain diseases.
  • Skin has essential immunological functions as the first line of defence against foreign antigen challenges, which is an ideal organ to study the immune response due to its accessibility.
  • Tissue optical clearing methods can effectively improve optical imaging resolution and depth, which have shown a great potential in immunology research.

Keywords: immune response; intravital optical imaging; noninvasive; spatiotemporal resolution; tissue optical clearing

Figure 1. The skin imaging windows for the study of intravital optical immunoimaging. (a) Zinselmeyer et al. . Reproduced with permission of Springer Nature. (b) Goh et al. . Reproduced with permission of My JoVE corporation.
Figure 2. Intravital imaging of microglia immune response under different conditions. (a) Microglia motility in resting state. Baik et al. . Reproduced with permission of Wiley. (b) Microglia response induced by laser ablation. Davalos et al. . Reproduced with permission of Springer Nature. (c) Microglia response with amyloid β plaque. Baik et al. . Reproduced with permission of Wiley.
Figure 3. Intravital imaging immune response of various tissues and organs. (a) Intravital lymph node imaging for monitoring the growth of cancer cells. Meijer et al. . Reproduced with permission of Springer Nature. (b) Intravital imaging of T‐cell transfer in tumour. Schietinger et al. . Reproduced with permission of Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Figure 4. The in vivo optical clearing footpad skin imaging windows for improvement of intravital optical imaging. (a) In vivo footpad skin optical clearing method for improvement of imaging contrast and depth. Shi et al. . Reproduced with permission of Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. (b) Visualisation of imaging MMs at different skin depths. Shi et al. and Tainaka et al. . Reproduced with permission of Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.


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Liu, Shaojun, Feng, Wei, Zhang, Chao, Yu, Tingting, and Zhu, Dan(Apr 2019) In Vivo Optical Imaging for Immune Response. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0027292]