The Optical Molecular Imaging and Analysis shared resource provides optical imaging services, technologies, equipment, and expertise to support the scientific needs and objectives of the Duke Cancer Institute. Optical techniques have become an increasingly important tool for understanding molecular mechanisms of cancer development and therapy.

Its high sensitivity and specificity enable studies into gene regulation and functional processes involved in cancer progression and therapeutic response. Optical techniques are non-invasive and cost-effective and can be done serially in the same animal. This allows for better characterization of transient or dynamic effects and minimizes the overall use of animals. No other modality can provide all these benefits.


The Optical Molecular Imaging and Analysis shared resource facilitates small animal imaging and spectroscopy. The services cover the following categories:

  • Optical imaging and spectroscopy
  • Window chamber surgery training and support
  • User training in techniques
  • Scientific guidance on experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation

Services include:

The Perkin Elmer VisEn FMT2500LX device performs fluorescence molecular tomography of near-infrared (NIR) fluorophores in whole mice. This includes the use of far-red fluorescent reporter proteins (e.g., mPlum, E2-Crimson), as well as a wide range of NIR fluorescent probes and labeling kits available commercially. Potential applications include angiogenesis, vascular volume, apoptosis, bone reformation, kidney function, protease activity, inflammation, cell tracking, antibody labeling, and more.

Three small animal imaging instruments made by Caliper Life Sciences.

IVIS Kinetic system for real-time combined bioluminescence and visible/near-infrared fluorescence imaging

IVIS Lumina XR, which is capable of fluorescence, bioluminescence, and X-ray imaging IVIS Lumina III bioluminescence/fluorescence imager. These are equipped with a heated stage and isoflurane anesthesia system.

A standalone workstation with analysis software for the IVIS instruments is available in MSRB1 room 281.

Several luciferase reporter cell lines are also potentially available upon request and approval, including HIF-1 reporters and constitutive reporters suitable for tumor growth and metastases tracking.

Portable, hand-held optical spectroscopy that is capable of non-invasively monitoring hemoglobin oxygen saturation, total Hb concentration (related to blood volume), redox ratio (related to oxygenation state), and scattering coefficient (related to whether cells are intact or undergoing necrosis or apoptosis). This device provides insights into the physiologic responses to treatment. It has been validated against other methods and found to predict for chemotherapy and radiation response.

Window chamber services. Surgical facilities and assistance are offered.

Intravital microscopy. Hyperspectral imaging of microvascular morphology, oxygenation, hemodynamics, and fluorescence.

Scanning stage microscopy with Zeiss AxioSkop II, suitable for imaging histology slides via fluorescence or bright field.

A Ruskin INVIVO2 500 hypoxia chamber suitable for controlled oxygen tension for cell culture is also available for use through an affiliated resource www.tmclab.net. Surgical Models:

We aim to surgically implant a window on different organs to be able to image them by microscope to take advantage of the optical imaging technique.

  • Brain window surgical model
  • Dorsal window chamber
  • Mammary window
  • Liver window chamber
  • Lung window chamber
  • Abdominal window chamber
  • Renal surgical model
  • Wound healing surgical model


These services are designed to facilitate the widespread adoption of a wide range of technologies centered on in vivo optical imaging and spectroscopy. These technologies include:

  • Whole animal optical imaging. This includes bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging. X-ray imaging is also incorporated into one of our devices.
  • Window chamber surgical equipment and techniques. Dorsal, mammary, abdominal, lung, and cranial windows are available (others in development).
  • Microscopy techniques. Intravital microscopy is available including fluorescence and hyperspectral imaging. In addition, a scanning stage fluorescence microscope is available for histological imaging.
  • Endpoints include hemoglobin saturation, flow velocity, fluorescence sensing, cell tracking, and vascular mapping.
  • Optical spectroscopy and quantitative modeling and extraction of tissue optical properties including absorber and fluorophore concentrations.
  • Endpoints include hemoglobin concentration and oxygen saturation, fluorophore concentration.


  • User outreach (website, seminars, mailing lists)
  • Discussion of user's application/study design
  • Develop the surgical model if needed • Development of techniques/acquisition of technology if needed
  • Training
  • Data collection (chargebacks are calculated per hour of use)
  • Discussion/assistance with analysis as needed
  • Discussion/assistance with interpretation of results as needed

Contact and Locations

Gregory Palmer, Ph.D., Director


  • Medical Science Research Building (MSRB): Rooms 239, 252, 281, 295, and 296
  • Genome Sciences Research Building (GSRB) II: Room 1011
  • Cancer Center Isolation Facility (CCIF): Room 103XR 1EA
This page was reviewed on 09/18/2023