Creating technologies to view chemical processes in the brain and body in real time

CILS Core Image of the Week

Brain Microvascular Network

Instrument: Zeiss LSM 800
Brain endothelial cells: dTomato (red). Pericytes: NG-2 (purple). Astrocytes: GFAP (green)
Credit: Max Winkelman/Dai Lab

We develop nanosensors and use multiple imaging modalities to highlight dynamic processes in the body in real time.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Our researchers collaborate across five following core disciplines to develop breakthrough imaging tools:

  • Probe Development
  • Probe Delivery
  • Imaging Technologies
  • Animal Models
  • Signal Processing


The development of novel imaging tools for real-time detection of molecular neural events, such as neurotransmitter release, is fundamental for studying the basis of brain function and disease, which leads to the development of better diagnostics and therapeutics.


Chemical analysis could be used to study processes like neurotransmitter release, but the field currently has a scale problem. New technologies are needed that can balance the specificity of cellular imaging with the functional, structural, or spatial capabilities of whole-body imaging.

CILS Members

Manuscripts enabled by CILS core facilities


Our goal is to create a new suite of modular nanoscale tools, probes that image dynamic biological processes beyond what is currently feasible. By forming multidisciplinary teams, we select and focus on a difficult problem that needs a solution – the interface between instrumentation and the biological environment is key to our success. Starting from a research question, we work through the probe’s lifecycle, from novel platform development, continuing through to its biological application.


vaccines by Megan Chown from the Noun Project

Enabling a doctor to measure specific biomolecules in a patient over disease progression will lead to better-informed diagnostics and personalized care.

Animal models better reflect a specific neurological disease state, and the same tools used to study these models can be used to further human research.

personalized experience by Nithinan Tatah from the Noun Project

Diseases can be studied in a highly personalized fashion, for the design and development of precision interventions.


We have demonstrated new nanoscale probes to detect in vivo analytes such as glucose (with applications for diabetes), electrolytes (relevant for dehydration for endurance sports and military applications), therapeutic drug monitoring, neurotransmitters (useful for neurodegenerative disease) and cytokines (to detect immune response in COVID-19).

CILS Seminar: Flow Cytometry

Join us for an information session on the features of our Beckman cell sorter and analyzer. During the seminar, participants will hear from users about their experiences and applications for a variety of projects, followed by a student presentation.


September 28th, 2021 12-1:30pm


New Nanosensor Holds Promise for Diagnosing, Treating Neurological Disease

Heather Clark, James Monaghan

CILS founders developed a DNA-based nanosensor that detects a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, as it’s released and picked up by target cells in living animals.

Bryan Spring Named A Scialog: Advancing Bioimaging Fellow

Bryan Spring

For early-career researchers chosen to address challenges involved in enhancing high-resolution imaging of tissue.

Get in Touch


Our facility

Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex

ISEC 080, 805 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA, 02115