Principal Investigator Oliver Bruns
Next-Generation in vivo Imaging


Oliver Bruns' research is dedicated to the development of excellent techniques for biomedical imaging. The advancement of new targeted contrast agents and novel imaging modalities will pave the way for personalized therapy and high precision treatments in the near future. Imaging in the short-wave infrared region (SWIR) is a new technology for biomedical applications. It provides several advantages over the visible and near-infrared regions: general lack of autofluorescence, low light absorption by blood and tissue, and reduced scattering. In this wavelength range tissues become translucent. Recent progress in detection technology and the development of probes demonstrated that, in principal, SWIR imaging enables applications which were previously not feasible with any other technique. These advantages will enable new capabilities in preclinical imaging. Most SWIR imaging setups so far are used for proof of principal demonstrations only. 

Our aims

To utilize the full potential, the first goal is developing novel SWIR imaging setups, which enable high-speed intravital imaging, ultra-sensitive whole animal imaging and fluorescence molecular tomography in mice in the SWIR.

The second goal of this project is to develop novel bright and targeted SWIR probes for preclinical research in diabetes and oncology.

Current Grants

  • DFG  -  Emmy Noether Program
  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
  • Helmholtz Enterprise Grant (Lead PI Thomas Bischof)

Collaborative Projects

  • Clinical SWIR Imaging – in collaboration with Prof. Tulio Valdez / Stanford University
  • Novel SWIR Probes – in collaboration with Prof. Ellen Sletten / UCLA and Prof. Martin Schnermann / NIH
  • Novel SWIR QDs Probes – in collaboration with Prof. Moungi Bawendi / MIT
  • Novel SWIR Imaging Setups – in collaboration with Prof. Christopher Rowlands / Imperial College London

Dr. Oliver Bruns

Principal Investigator, Next generation in vivo imaging

Vision: short-wave infrared region (SWIR) is the future of optical imaging

My vision is that in 10 years, SWIR imaging is going to be the gold standard for preclinical and clinical imaging. Every research center and every major clinic will have SWIR detection systems and use novel contrast agents like the ones which I plan to develop with my team and collaborators. This new generation of optical imaging techniques will enable preclinical contact-free imaging in awake and behaving mice and in the future clinical imaging with single cell sensitivity and penetration depth up to centimeters.


Dr. Oliver Bruns

Google Scholar

2018 - present
Principal Investigator Helmholtz Pioneer Campus,  Helmholtz Zentrum München   

2015 - 2017
Research Scientist (Senior Scientist), Department of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2011 - 2015
Postdoctoral Associate in the group of Prof. Moungi Bawendi at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2009 - 2011
Senior Scientist at Heinrich-Pette-Institute Hamburg/Germany


PhD in Biochemistry, University Medical Center and Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Hamburg (Germany), Supervisors: Prof. Ulrike Beisiegel and Prof. Horst Weller

Diploma in Biochemistry / Molecular Biology, University of Hamburg (Germany)


Emmy Noether Group leader DFG

EMBO Long-Term Fellowship 

DAAD fellowship (declined in favour of EMBO Long-term Fellowship)

‘Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes’ Fellowship

Travel grant for the World Molecular Imaging Congress

EMBL Advanced Training Centre Fellowship (Travel grant) and Dr. Wilhelmy-GSO-Fellowship (Travel grant)

SPOT award by MIT School of Science and Travel grant by MIT PDA

Karl-Heinz Hölzer Award for Interdisciplinary Medical Research (PhD-Thesis)

Young Investigator Award, 77th European Atherosclerosis Congress, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey

Young Investigator Award, 30th annual Meeting of European Lipoprotein Club, Tutzing, Germany

Award for the best diploma thesis in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology

Spokesman of the Student Committee of the 'GBM' (German Biochemical Society)

 Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


DFG – Emmy Noether Program
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Helmholtz internal Program for Spin-Offs - Helmholtz Enterprise (PI Dr. Thomas Bischof)


Deputy Group Leader

Dr. Thomas Bischof


PhD Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Focus: Multispectral imaging
Doctoral Thesis: "On the origin of photons: understanding excitons and multiexcitons in colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals"

SWIR microscopy

Dr. Andriy Chmyrov


PhD in Physics, Royal Institute of Technology
Focus: microscopy and imaging
Doctoral Thesis: “Photo-induced dark states influorescence spectroscopy–investigations & applications"


Research Engineer

Samuel Adler


Peter Tsrunchev

BSc in Applied and Engineering Physics, Technical University of Munich (currently pursuing)
Focus: Particle Image Velocimetry
Bachelor Thesis: Luminosity measurements at CMS


Dr. Gina Fürtjes


Examinated in Medicine, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Focus: intraoperative SWIR imaging 
Doctoral Thesis: "hTERT promoter methylation in meningiomas and central nervous hemangiopericytomas"

Dr. Mara Saccomano


PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine of Göttingen
Focus: Optical Imaging and therapy in mouse models of pancreatic tumors
Doctoral Thesis: "Development and evaluation of new approaches for fluorescence-guided surgery and therapy of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) using orthotopic mouse models"

PhD Students

Bernardo Arús


MSc in Biochemistry, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil/ Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal
Focus: Metabolic imaging
Master Thesis: "Characterization of leptin receptor-expressing cells associated to sympathetic neurons in the adipose tissue"

Jakob Lingg


MSc in Astrophysics, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich
Focus: Optical Design and Technology
Master Thesis: "Photometric Redshift Estimation & Testing of Chromatic Correction Mapping for EUCLID"

Tjiadina Klein


Examinated in Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig
Focus: Translating SWIR imaging to the clinic

Merle Weitzenberg

Merle Weitzenberg is a joint PhD Student between the group of Prof. Dr. Oliver Plettenburg (Leibniz University of Hannover)and the lab of Dr. Oliver Bruns

MSc in Medicinal and Natural Product Chemistry, Leibniz Universität Hannover
Focus: SWIR Fluorescent Probes
Master Thesis: "Development of Novel SWIR Fluorescent Probes for Molecular Imaging"

Research assistants

Sofia Kieffa

BSc in Health Sciences, Technical University of Munich (currently pursuing)
Focus: Application of medical and SWIR imaging

Joycelyn Yiu

BSc. in Biology and Neuroscience, Rice University, United States 
Focus: Imaging data processing


Ilaria Balba

MSc in Biomedical Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Italy 
Focus: Image processing and 3D reconstruction
Master Thesis: "Passive tomography: tools for extracting three-dimensional information from monocular video"

Nina Büttner

current position: Undergrad Columbia University

Emily Cosco

Chemistry Graduate Student visiting from the Group of Ellen Sletten at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. Her research focuses on developing organic fluorophores for SWIR imaging.  
Current position: Postdoc Stanford Medicine


Asli Ergin

MSc Biomedical Computing, Technical University of Munich (currently pursuing)
Focus: Medical Image Processing

Xhenifer Guza

Current position: Image Analysis Engineer

Bunyamin Pekdemir


MSc in Biomedical Engineering, at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Medizinische Fakultät Mannheim 
M Eng. in Mechanical Engineering, at The City University of New York, The Grove School of Engineering
Focus: Radiotherapy 
Master Thesis: "Combined modality of ultrasound and electromagnetic tracking –Modeling, design, and construction of a robust mounting device to enable accurate and flexible ultrasound navigated, minimally invasive interventions”

Shyam Ramakrishnan

Selected Publications

Lysosomal lipoprotein processing in endothelial cells stimulates adipose tissue thermogenic adaptation

Alexander W.Fischer, Michelle Y.Jaeckstein, Kristina Gottschling, Markus Heine, Frederike Sass, Nils Mangels, Christian Schlein, Anna Worthmann, Oliver T.Bruns, Yucheng Yuan, Hua Zhu, Ou Chen, Harald Ittrich, Stefan K. Nilsson, Patrik Stefanicka, Jozef Ukropec, Miroslav Balaz, Hua Dong, Joerg Heeren
Cell Metab. 2020 Dec 17;S1550-4131(20)30656-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2020.12.001.

More Details

Shortwave infrared polymethine fluorophores matched to excitation lasers enable noninvasive, multicolor in vivo imaging in real time.

Cosco, E.D., Spearman, A.I., Ramakrishnan, S., Lingg, J.G.P., Saccomano, M., Pengshung, M., Arus, B., Wong, K.C., Glasl, S., Ntziachristos, V., Warmer, M., McLaughlin, R.R., Bruns, O.T., Sletten, E.M
Nat. Chem. 2020, in print

Non-invasive monitoring of chronic liver disease via near-infrared and shortwave-infrared imaging of endogenous lipofuscin

Mari Saif, Wilhelmus J. Kwanten, Jessica A. Carr, Ivy X. Chen, Jessica M., Posada, Amitabh Srivastava, Juanye Zhang, Yi Zheng, Matthias Pinter, Sampurna Chatterjee, Samir Softic, C. Ronald Kahn, Klaus van Leyen, Oliver T. Bruns, Rakesh K. Jain, Moungi G. Bawendi

Nat Biomed Eng. 2020 Aug;4(8):801-813. doi: 10.1038/s41551-020-0569-y

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Cellular and Molecular Probing of Intact Human Organs.

Zhao S, Todorov MI, Cai R, -Maskari RA, Steinke H, Kemter E, Mai H, Rong Z, Warmer M, Stanic K, Schoppe O, Paetzold JC, Gesierich B, Wong MN, Huber TB, Duering M, Bruns OT, Menze B, Lipfert J, Puelles VG, Wolf E, Bechmann I, Ertürk A.

Cell. 2020 Feb 11. pii: S0092-8674(20)30111-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.01.030. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 32059778

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Shortwave infrared imaging with J-aggregates stabilized in hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles.

Chen, W. ; Cheng, C.A. ; Cosco, E. ; Ramakrishnan, A. ; Lingg, J.G.P. ; Bruns, O.T. ; Zink, J.I. ; Sletten, E.M.
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 141, 12475-12480 (2019)

More Details

Absorption by water increases fluorescence image contrast of biological tissue in the shortwave infrared.

Carr JA, Aellen M, Franke D, So PTC, Bruns OT, Bawendi MG.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 11;115(37):9080-9085. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1803210115.

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Shortwave infrared fluorescence imaging with the clinically approved near-infrared dye indocyanine green.

Carr JA, Franke D, Caram JR, Perkinson CF, Saif M, Askoxylakis V, Datta M, Fukumura D, Jain RK, Bawendi MG, Bruns OT.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 24;115(17):4465-4470. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718917115.

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Initial findings of shortwave infrared otoscopy in a pediatric population.

Valdez TA, Carr JA, Kavanagh KR, Schwartz M, Blake D, Bruns O, Bawendi M.
Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2018 Nov;114:15-19. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.08.024.

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Brown adipose tissue thermogenic adaptation requires Nrf1-mediated proteasomal activity.

Bartelt A, Widenmaier SB, Schlein C, Johann K, Goncalves RLS, Eguchi K, Fischer AW, Parlakgül G, Snyder NA, Nguyen TB, Bruns OT, Franke D, Bawendi MG, Lynes MD, Leiria LO, Tseng YH, Inouye KE, Arruda AP, Hotamisligil GS.
Nat Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):292-303. doi: 10.1038/nm.4481.

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Next-generation in vivo optical imaging with short-wave infrared quantum dots.

Bruns OT, Bischof TS, Harris DK, Franke D, Shi Y, Riedemann L, Bartelt A, Jaworski FB, Carr JA, Rowlands CJ, Wilson MWB, Chen O, Wei H, Hwang GW, Montana DM, Coropceanu I, Achorn OB, Kloepper J, Heeren J, So PTC, Fukumura D, Jensen KF, Jain RK, Bawendi MG.
Nat Biomed Eng. 2017;1. pii: 0056. doi: 10.1038/s41551-017-0056.


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Brown adipose tissue activity controls triglyceride clearance.

Bartelt A, Bruns OT, Reimer R, Hohenberg H, Ittrich H, Peldschus K, Kaul MG, Tromsdorf UI, Weller H, Waurisch C, Eychmüller A, Gordts PL, Rinninger F, Bruegelmann K, Freund B, Nielsen P, Merkel M, Heeren J.
Nat Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):200-5. doi: 10.1038/nm.2297.


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Real time magnetic resonance imaging and quantification of lipoprotein metabolism in vivo using nanocrystals.

Bruns OT, Ittrich H, Peldschus K, Kaul MG, Tromsdorf UI, Lauterwasser J, Nikolic MS, Mollwitz B, Merkel M, Bigall NC, Sapra S, Reimer R, Hohenberg H, Weller H, Eychmüller A, Adam G, Beisiegel U, Heeren J.
Nat Nanotechnol. 2009 Mar;4(3):193-201. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2008.405.


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