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  1. Abstract

    Assisted reproduction is one of the significant tools to treat human infertility. Morphological assessment is the primary method to determine sperm and embryo viability during in vitro fertilization cycles. It has the advantage of being a quick, convenient, and inexpensive means of assessment. However, visual observation is of limited predictive value for early embryo morphology. It has led many to search for other imaging tools to assess the reproductive potential of a given embryo. The limitations of visual assessment apply to both humans and animals.

    One recent innovation in assisted reproduction technology imaging is interferometric phase microscopy, also known as holographic microscopy. Interferometric phase microscopy/quantitative phase imaging is the next likely progression of analytical microscopes for the assisted reproduction laboratory. The interferometric phase microscopy system analyzes waves produced by the light as it passes through the specimen observed. The microscope collects the light waves produced and uses the algorithm to create a hologram of the specimen. Recently, interferometric phase microscopy has been combined with quantitative phase imaging, which joins phase contrast microscopy with holographic microscopy. These microscopes collect light waves produced and use the algorithm to create a hologram of the specimen. Unlike other systems, interferometric phase microscopy can provide a quantitative digital image, and it can make 2D and 3D images of the samples.

    This review summarizes some newer and more promising quantitative phase imaging microscopy systems for evaluating gametes and embryos. Studies clearly show that quantitative phase imaging is superior to bright field microscopy-based evaluation methods when evaluating sperm and oocytes prior to IVF and embryos prior to transfer. However, further assessment of these systems for efficacy, reproducibility, cost-effectiveness, and embryo/gamete safety must take place before they are widely adopted.

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  2. Myokines and exosomes, originating from skeletal muscle, are shown to play a significant role in maintaining brain homeostasis. While exercise has been reported to promote muscle secretion, little is known about the effects of neuronal innervation and activity on the yield and molecular composition of biologically active molecules from muscle. As neuromuscular diseases and disabilities associated with denervation impact muscle metabolism, we hypothesize that neuronal innervation and firing may play a pivotal role in regulating secretion activities of skeletal muscles. We examined this hypothesis using an engineered neuromuscular tissue model consisting of skeletal muscles innervated by motor neurons. The innervated muscles displayed elevated expression of mRNAs encoding neurotrophic myokines, such as interleukin-6, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and FDNC5, as well as the mRNA of peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α, a key regulator of muscle metabolism. Upon glutamate stimulation, the innervated muscles secreted higher levels of irisin and exosomes containing more diverse neurotrophic microRNAs than neuron-free muscles. Consequently, biological factors secreted by innervated muscles enhanced branching, axonal transport, and, ultimately, spontaneous network activities of primary hippocampal neurons in vitro. Overall, these results reveal the importance of neuronal innervation in modulating muscle-derived factors that promote neuronal function and suggest that the engineered neuromuscular tissue model holds significant promise as a platform for producing neurotrophic molecules.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 7, 2025
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Retrieving electrical impedance maps at the nanoscale rapidly via nondestructive inspection with a high signal-to-noise ratio is an unmet need, likely to impact various applications from biomedicine to energy conversion. In this study, we develop a multimodal functional imaging instrument that is characterized by the dual capability of impedance mapping and phase quantitation, high spatial resolution, and low temporal noise. To achieve this, we advance a quantitative phase imaging system, referred to as epi-magnified image spatial spectrum microscopy combined with electrical actuation, to provide complementary maps of the optical path and electrical impedance. We demonstrate our system with high-resolution maps of optical path differences and electrical impedance variations that can distinguish nanosized, semi-transparent, structured coatings involving two materials with relatively similar electrical properties. We map heterogeneous interfaces corresponding to an indium tin oxide layer exposed by holes with diameters as small as ~550 nm in a titanium (dioxide) over-layer deposited on a glass support. We show that electrical modulation during the phase imaging of a macro-electrode is decisive for retrieving electrical impedance distributions with submicron spatial resolution and beyond the limitations of electrode-based technologies (surface or scanning technologies). The findings, which are substantiated by a theoretical model that fits the experimental data very well enable achieving electro-optical maps with high spatial and temporal resolutions. The virtues and limitations of the novel optoelectrochemical method that provides grounds for a wider range of electrically modulated optical methods for measuring the electric field locally are critically discussed. 
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    Abstract In 1969, Emil Wolf proposed diffraction tomography using coherent holographic imaging to extract 3D information from transparent, inhomogeneous objects. In the same era, the Wolf equations were first used to describe the propagation correlations associated with partially coherent fields. Combining these two concepts, we present Wolf phase tomography (WPT), which is a method for performing diffraction tomography using partially coherent fields. WPT reconstruction works directly in the space–time domain, without the need for Fourier transformation, and decouples the refractive index (RI) distribution from the thickness of the sample. We demonstrate the WPT principle using the data acquired by a quantitative-phase-imaging method that upgrades an existing phase-contrast microscope by introducing controlled phase shifts between the incident and scattered fields. The illumination field in WPT is partially spatially coherent (emerging from a ring-shaped pupil function) and of low temporal coherence (white light), and as such, it is well suited for the Wolf equations. From three intensity measurements corresponding to different phase-contrast frames, the 3D RI distribution is obtained immediately by computing the Laplacian and second time derivative of the measured complex correlation function. We validate WPT with measurements of standard samples (microbeads), spermatozoa, and live neural cultures. The high throughput and simplicity of this method enables the study of 3D, dynamic events in living cells across the entire multiwell plate, with an RI sensitivity on the order of 10 −5 . 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Understanding the mechanisms by which neurons create or suppress connections to enable communication in brain-derived neuronal cultures can inform how learning, cognition and creative behavior emerge. While prior studies have shown that neuronal cultures possess self-organizing criticality properties, we further demonstrate that in vitro brain-derived neuronal cultures exhibit a self-optimization phenomenon. More precisely, we analyze the multiscale neural growth data obtained from label-free quantitative microscopic imaging experiments and reconstruct the in vitro neuronal culture networks (microscale) and neuronal culture cluster networks (mesoscale). We investigate the structure and evolution of neuronal culture networks and neuronal culture cluster networks by estimating the importance of each network node and their information flow. By analyzing the degree-, closeness-, and betweenness-centrality, the node-to-node degree distribution (informing on neuronal interconnection phenomena), the clustering coefficient/transitivity (assessing the “small-world” properties), and the multifractal spectrum, we demonstrate that murine neurons exhibit self-optimizing behavior over time with topological characteristics distinct from existing complex network models. The time-evolving interconnection among murine neurons optimizes the network information flow, network robustness, and self-organization degree. These findings have complex implications for modeling neuronal cultures and potentially on how to design biological inspired artificial intelligence. 
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