15 Feb Accelerator Chronicle – Optical Imaging Techniques for Fighting Cancer
Emerging cell therapies are giving hope to cancer patients. But to guide the process new analytical tools are desperately needed. Melissa Skala and her team are going all in.
There was a time when biomedical engineer Melissa Skala dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But at a young age a fascination with physics, and then with light, emerged. It was Lake Mendota that first drew Skala – a skilled sailor – to Madison.
Today, Prof. Skala leads the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab at the Morgridge Institute for Research. Her program is among the most diverse and dynamic on campus, bridging fundamental discovery to translation.
Her lab develops optical imaging techniques to shed light on some of the grandest challenges of human health – from personalized treatment plans to predicting preterm birth.
Fueled by multidisciplinary collaborations, much of Skala’s research takes aim at cancer, including breast, oral and pancreatic.
Skala’s current Accelerator project stems from a celebrated invention disclosure from 2018.
That year, Skala and collaborator Alex Walsh were awarded top WARF honors for an exciting discovery. Using sophisticated research-grade optical imaging, they found that they could distinguish activated immune T cells based on metabolites glowing faintly within them.