Krista D. Zanolli, email@example.com
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A new microscope at Indiana University
will allow researchers to examine biological samples in 3-D with unprecedented detail,
and it would not be there without stimulus funding.
Funding of $1.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act of 2009 has enabled the installation of a new laser-equipped superresolution
microscope at the university’s Light Microscopy Imaging Center (LMIC). The
funds for the instrument, a DeltaVision OMX microscope from Issaquah, Wash.-based
Applied Precision, came through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program designed
to support American higher-education centers.
“This superresolution microscope, one of only 16 in the
world and one of only eight commercial units, is part of our vision to bring state-of-the-art
technology to IU’s life science researchers to enable them to address questions
that they did not have the ability to ask previously, due to the lack of appropriate
technologies,” said cell biologist Claire Walczak, executive director at LMIC.
The microscope, which surpasses the 250-nm-resolution limit of
conventional light microscopes by a factor of two, uses four different colors of
laser light to illuminate samples while four extremely sensitive cameras capture
images as rapidly as every 10 ms. It can produce as many as 5000 full-color images
per minute. Known as a “structured illumination” microscope, the device
offers exceptional resolution that will help university scientists gain a better
understanding of how proteins are distributed inside cells.
“We identified a critical need amongst a core of NIH-funded
investigators at IU for a device that would allow them to address their most pressing
biological questions,” said Sidney L. Shaw, technical director of LMIC. “In
our case, we have a strong contingent of investigators studying bacteria, chromatin
and aspects of cellular structure that will all benefit from the twofold gain in
“Based on the reviews of our proposal [by NIH’s Center
for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel, PAR09-118], it was matching the biological
questions directly to the technology, coupled with the commitment we have made at
IU to creating a user-friendly imaging center that appears to have been the winning
Currently, the OMX is in training mode; Jim Powers, LMIC manager,
is working closely with Shaw and the research staff to calibrate the device and
establish protocols. The university expects the instrument to be available to all
of its researchers this fall.
A fixed PTK (marsupial kidney cell line) cell in mitosis. The condensed
chromosomes are stained with Hoechst stain and are shown in blue, while microtubules
are labeled with an antibody to tubulin and are shown in red. Imaging was done in
the structured illumination mode. More than 2000 images were taken by the system
below and processed to create this image. Photo by Eric Workman and Jim Powers.
“We’d envisioned this device would be most useful
for microbiologists, cell biologists and neurobiologists at IU,” Walczak said.
“But we expect scientists from many other fields will come up with creative
ways to take advantage of it.”
The arrival of the OMX has compelled Walczak, Shaw and Powers
to consider the future needs of the LMIC. Because of the size of the microscope,
the LMIC is out of physical space, and because it produces so much data, the center’s
information technology infrastructure will also need to be improved.
“With this award, the LMIC at Indiana University is growing
faster than expected. The university has been very forward thinking with regard
to our ‘use versus cost’ model, and we are slowly assessing options
for physically expanding to other rooms or consolidating our space by paring down
lower-use imaging devices,” Shaw said. “IU recognized that a relatively
modest investment to create this kind of imaging center would have a significant
impact on the success rate of grants going to individual faculty for their research
projects. We are starting to see that investment returned.
“In this current funding era, we want to focus on getting
the most science out of everything we are fortunate enough to have here.”