Intravital fluorescence microscopy has emerged as a powerful technique to visualize cellular processes in vivo. However, the size of the objective lenses has limited physical accessibility to various tissue sites in the internal organs of small animals. The use of small-diameter probes using graded-index (GRIN) lenses expands the capabilities of conventional intravital microscopes into minimally invasive internal organs imaging. In this protocol, we describe the detailed steps for the fabrication of front- and side-view GRIN probes and the integration and operation of the probes in a confocal microscope for visualizing fluorescent cells and microvasculature in various murine organs. We further present longitudinal imaging of immune cells in renal allografts and the tumor development in the colon. The fabrication and integration can be completed in 5–7 hours, and a typical in vivo imaging session takes 1–2 hours.
Keywords: optical probe, microscopy techniques, intravital fluorescence microscopy, graded index lens, mouse imaging