Joint Colloquium Distinguished Lecture Series

NanoSatellites for Exploring the Cellular Galaxy

luke lee

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Luke P. Lee
Department of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley

Downloadable pdf


Just as satellites are routinely sent to explore the space, nanoplasmonic satellites can provide detailed chemical maps of the space inside biological cells. Our understanding of biological systems is increasingly dependent on our ability to visualize and measure the dynamics of molecules with high spatial and temporal resolution in a living cell. Current fluorescence and confocal microscopy requires fluorescent labeling steps. The electron microscope (EM) can resolve subcellular structures without labeling, but EM imaging damages living cells.  Moreover, fluorescence and EM microscopy cannot provide spectroscopic chemical fingerprints of molecules in living cells, which critical information to understand structural biology, molecular genetics, cellular signaling and metabolic pathways.

However, through the phenomenon of plasmon resonance, which is the collective resonant oscillation of electrons in a metal, nanoplasmonic satellites can be used to focus and amplify light to nanometer-sized regions.  The optical antennas of nanoplasmonic satellites can receive incoming electromagnetic field and function as a nanoscopic localized light sources, as well as transmitting molecular spectrum.  As radio antennas were developed for wireless communication, the optical antennas can provide solutions for concentrating optical radiation to dimensions less than the diffraction limit. Optical antenna-based Plasmonic Resonance Energy Transfer (PRET) nanospectroscopy and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) offer spectroscopic imaging capability.  Using intracellular nanoplasmonic satellites, we obtain snapshots of what we, metaphorically speaking, refer to as the Cellular Galaxy.

For the remote control of gene regulation and therapeutic applications, we have developed Oligonucleotides on a Nanoplasmonic Carrier Optical Switch (ONCOS).  ONCOS-based molecular optogenetics allow precision gene regulations by on-demand optical gene switches of antisense DNA or siRNA with nanometer-scale spatial resolution and localized temperature controls in living cells.  The nanoplasmonic satellites are being applied for molecular/cellular diagnostics, therapeutic applications, and system biology since the molecular optical antennas of nanoplasmonic satellites will provide us precise spatial and temporal controls of gene interferences and spectroscopic information, which help us to study cellular signaling networks, transmission, and flow of information in living cells.


Prof. Luke P. Lee is Arnold and Barbara Silverman Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley.  He is also Co-Director of Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center.  He received both his B.A. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.  His current research interests are bionanoscience, biophotonics, molecular diagnostics, preventive personalized medicine, and Biologically-inspired Photonics-Optofluidics-Electronics Technology and Science (BioPOETS). Prof. Lee has authored and co-authored over 250 papers on single cell analysis, optofluidics, microfluidic cell biology, biotechnology, optical MEMS, BioMEMS, SERS, SQUIDs, and nanogap biosensor for label-free biomolecule detection.

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