Miguel Pleitez - Translational Optoacoustic

Research Focus

Our understanding of cell biology in health and disease is greatly derived from observations with optical microscopy. However, the biggest strength of modern optical microscopy lies within the application of external contrast labels that are not always feasible or perturb the normal performance of the system in study. The next frontier in optical microscopy is, thus, label-free metabolic imaging as it will allow to study metabolic response in homeostasis and therapeutic intervention without perturbation of normal biological behavior. Nevertheless, label-free metabolic imaging remains challenging because it implies the ability to directly observe biomolecular content and biochemical reactions without destroying the sample and without the aid of external reagents. This is particularly difficult to conventional optical microscopy which, at wavelengths below 700 nm, lacks intrinsic biochemical specificity or results in phototoxicity. Additionally, it also remains challenging to advanced vibrational imaging modalities, such as Stimulated Raman Scattering and mid-infrared (mid-IR) microscopy, which provide intrinsic biochemical contrast only at low sensitivities and at high risk of harming the samples.

The general goal of my team in Translational Optoacoustic is to advance biological and biomedical research by achieving non-destructive live-cell chemical microscopy with label-free biomolecular sensitivity using molecule-specific mid-infrared excitation and highly-sensitive optoacoustic and optothermal detection.

Mid-infrared (mid-IR) excitation and optoacoustic/optothermal (OA/OT) sensing are excellent examples of perfectly complementary technologies. Mid-IR absorption excites molecular-specific vibrational-transitions that are de-excited in the form of heat, generating OA and OT signals which intensity primarily depends on efficient heat deposition. My team at TranslaTUM harvest on this highly sensitive bond-selective combination for developing and applying new functional biochemical sensing technologies tailored for translational research in cancer, diabetes, and obesity—particularly for longitudinal live-cell metabolic microscopy, fast analytical histology/biopsy, and in vivo non-invasive monitoring of metabolites.

The unique features resulting from combining mid-IR excitation with OA/OT sensing hold great promise for live-cell metabolic microscopy, fast analytical histology/biopsy, and in vivo non-invasive monitoring of metabolites.

Miguel A. Pleitez conducted (thanks to a full DAAD scholarship) and received his Ph.D. at the Institute of Biophysics of Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, where he created sensors for non-invasive glucose monitoring by mid-IR photoacoustic spectroscopy. His work contributed to the foundation of DiaMonTech AG—a company translating these sensors into the diabetes clinic. Next, he moved to the Optical Imaging Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis where he contributed to the development of UV and mid-IR photoacoustic microscopy. In 2016, he joined the Chair for Biological Imaging of TU-Munich and the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging of Helmholtz Munich—creating Mid-infraRed Optoacoustic Microscopy (MiROM) for label-free live-cell metabolic monitoring. In 2021 he was appointed Assistant Professor for Translational Optoacoustics at TU-Munich. The technologies developed in his lab hold great promise for live-cell metabolic microscopy, fast analytical histology, and non-invasive sensing of metabolites.

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, for distinguished academic career (2013)
  • IOS Press, Student price (2013)
  • Ph.D. Scholarship, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (2009-2013)
  • Willkomm-Stiftung, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main/Germany (2012)

Yuan T., Pleitez M.A., Gasparin F., Ntziachristos V. (2021). Wide-Field Mid-Infrared Hyperspectral Imaging by Snapshot Phase Contrast Measurement of Optothermal Excitation, Analytica Chemistry 93, 15323-15330.

Karlas A., Pleitez M.A., Aguirre J., Ntziachristos V. (2021). Optoacoustic imaging in endocrinology, Nature Reviews Endocrinology 17, 323-335.

Pleitez M.A., Khan A. A., Soldá A., Chmyrov A., Reber J., Gasparin F., Seeger M., Schätz B., Scheideler M., Herzig S., Ntziachristos V. (2020). Label-free metabolic imaging by mid-infrared optoacoustic microscopy in living cells, Nat Biotechnol 38. 293-296.

Ntziachristos V., Pleitez M.A., Aime S., Brindle K. (2019). Emerging Technologies to Image Tissue Metabolism, Cell Metab 29, 518.

Wissmeyer G., Pleitez M.A., Rosenthal A., Ntziachristos V. (2018). Looking at sound: optoacoustics with all optical ultrasound detection, Light: Sci & App 7, 53.

Pleitez M.A., Hertzberg O., Bauer A., Lieblein T., Glasmacher M., Tholl H., Mäntele W. (2017). Infrared reflectometry of skin: Analysis of backscattered light from different skin layers, Spectrochim Acta A 184, 220-227.

Pleitez M.A, Hertzberg O., Bauer A., Seeger M., Lieblein T., von Lilienfeld-Toal H., Mäntele W. (2015). Photothermal deflectometry enhanced by total internal reflection enables non-invasive glucose monitoring in human epidermis, Analyst 140, 483-488.

Pleitez M.A., Lieblein T., Bauer A., Hertzberg O., von Lilienfeld-Toal H., Mäntele W. (2013). Windowless ultrasound photoacoustic cell for in vivo mid-IR spectroscopy of human epidermis: Low interference by changes of air pressure, temperature, and humidity caused by skin contact opens the possibility for a non-invasive monitoring of glucose in the interstitial fluid, Rev Sci Instrum 84, 084901.

Pleitez M.A., Lieblein T., Bauer A., Hertzberg O., von Lilienfeld-Toal H., Mäntele W. (2013). In vivo noninvasive monitoring of glucose concentration in human epidermis by mid-infrared pulsed photoacoustic spectroscopy, Anal Chem 85, 1013-1020.

Pleitez M.A., von Lilienfeld-Toal H., Mäntele W. (2011). Infrared spectroscopic analysis of human interstitial fluid in vitro and in vivo using FTIR spectroscopy and pulsed quantum cascade lasers (QCL): Establishing a new approach to non-invasive glucose measurement, Spectrochim Acta A 85, 61-65.

Prof. Dr. Miguel Pleitez
Technical University of Munich
School of Medicine and School of Electrical Engineering
Chair of Biological Imaging (CBI)
Phone: +49 89 4140 9018

Stephanie Montag