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Stimulus money funds 3-D microscope

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Krista D. Zanolli, [email protected]

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 resolution.

“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 combination.”

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.”

Oct 2010
3-D microscopeAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009Applied Precisionbiological samplesBiophotonicsBusinesscamerascell biologistscellular structureCenter for Scientific Review Special Emphasis PanelClaire WalczakDeltaVision OMXEric Workmanilluminate samplesimagingIndiana University BloomingtonJim Powerslaser lightlaser-equipped microscopelife science researcherslight microscopesLight Microscopy Imaging Centermarsupial kidney cell linemicrobiologistsMicroscopymicrotubulesneurobiologistsNIHPAR09-118RapidScanSidney L. Shawstructured illuminationsuper-resolution microscopesuperresolutiontubulinlasers

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