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  • New Microscope Built in Scotland
Jun 2010
GLASGOW, Scotland, June 21, 2010 — A new microscope that obtains crucial highly detailed images of cells, tissue and drugs has been built at the Center for Biophotonics of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences in Scotland. Designed and built by Dr. Gail McConnell, RCUK (Research Councils UK) Academic Fellow, and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Wei Zhang, the new microscope uses a less complex laser system than previously available.

Dr. Gail McConnell and Dr. Wei Zhang.

According to the researchers, this breakthrough provides scientists at the institute and elsewhere with an easier and significantly cheaper method of obtaining necessary images for fighting cancer, studying neurological conditions and developing new drugs and treatments for a range of diseases.

Supporting the work, a new £36 million ($53.5 million) state-of-the-art facility, including the specially designed Center for Biophotonics, is due to be completed and officially opened in 2011. The Robertson Trust, a Scottish charity, has donated £500,000 ($620,000), with specific focus on the new Center for Biophotonics, toward the £8 million ($12 million) fund-raising campaign for the new Institute facility.

The new microscope removes the need to add the often toxic fluorescent labeling that is normally required to to see specific areas of interest within a material. It saves time and money and reduces the likelihood of disrupting the material. In conjunction with the chemical properties of the materials, the new microscope system allows scientists to obtain high-definition three-dimensional images.

Extending a known microscopy technique, the new imaging platform adopts a simpler, less expensive approach using only one laser, and the levels of light involved are too low to cause cell damage. The microscope's development was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council as part of its Technology Development Research Initiative program in 2007.

“The Robertson Trust is delighted to support the establishment of a new building for the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. We are particularly pleased to create the Biophotonics Suite, which is pioneering new imaging techniques enabling scientists to look at drugs interacting with tissue in real time, saving time and money in drug discovery and development,” said Duncan Munro of The Robertson Trust.

“This microscope is a breakthrough for biological imaging in Scotland and further afield,” added McConnell. “By producing chemically specific images of cells and tissue without adding potentially disruptive dyes, life sciences researchers can visualize subcellular and cellular structures in three dimensions and with minimum intervention. This opens up new vistas in live-cell imaging and provides biomedical researchers with the unparalleled ability to study biological function, which provides a unique insight into the fundamental spark of life.”

Further acknowledgment of the cutting-edge work undertaken at the Center for Biophotonics is a recent $100,000 (£67,000) Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project, conducted by Dr. McConnell and her colleague Dr. Owain Millington, to implement a laser-targeted system to vaccinate against the virulent leishmania infection. The campaign has also attracted significant philanthropic support from charities, trusts and Strathclyde alumni and is more than halfway to achieving its target with additional donors still required.

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