Ellen Sletten, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and her collaborators are one of 13 research teams chosen for a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Deep Tissue Imaging grant. Sletten; Oliver Bruns at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus in Munich, Germany; and Christopher Rowlands at Imperial College London will receive $1 million for their project on deep tissue short-wave infrared multiphoton microscopy.

Through this combined probe and technology development project, Sletten and her collaborators will obtain cellular resolution images through skin, eliminating the need for surgically implanted “windows” to perform microscopy in mice. Sletten and Bruns recently developed the fastest, multicolor, noninvasive imaging in mice to date.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s imaging program aims to drive breakthroughs in curing, preventing or managing disease by advancing the imaging field. This includes increasing collaborations between biologists and technology experts, improving microscopy tools and expanding access to these tools, and supporting increased training and community building. Awardees of the grant will work to advance the field of deep tissue imaging by developing technologies that will allow researchers to view information at cellular resolution, in complex tissue and through skin and bone, in living organisms. The initial two-and-a-half-year pilot projects include technology applications in optical microscopy, photoacoustics, quantum imaging, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound and X-ray. In the second phase of the grant, successful grantees will be eligible to apply for four-year, $10 million technology development grant awards.

A UCLA faculty member since 2015, Sletten is the John McTague Career Development Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She is also a 2019 ACS Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Young Investigator, 2018 Sloan Research Fellow, UCLA Hellman Fellow and NIH Director’s New Innovator. In November, she was one of four recipients of the 2020 International Chemical Biology Society Young Chemical Biologist Award. The award is given annually to young scientists across the globe who have made significant research and service contributions to chemical biology.

Sletten’s research group takes a multidisciplinary approach to the development of molecules, methods and materials to detect and perform chemistries in vivo, ultimately enabling next-generation therapeutics and diagnostics.