New Microscope to Give Researchers Real-Time Look at Disease Microbes

Researchers will use the new microscope for live 3D cell imaging. The team spent $200,000 from an infrastructure grant from the John Evans Leadership Fund of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

That funding paid for part of the instrument and allowed Molecular and Cellular Biology professors Joseph Lam, Chris Whitfield and Cezar Khursigara to complete the new device by recycling parts from an older microscope. They have installed the new instrument in the Advanced Analysis Centre of the Summerlee Science Complex.

“With an upper limit on the amount we could apply for in the particular CFI infrastructure grant application, we realized that we have to be thrifty and creative to get this spinning disk confocal microscope,” said Lam, lead investigator for this project.

This new spinning disk confocal microscope records 100 frames per second, allowing scientists to watch cells move, unlike an older device.  It also takes 3D images, allowing researchers to look at different cell layers.

“Most microscopes can only see the top layer, or everything is blurred together,” said Lam.

“Before, once we had our initial view of the cells, we would not be able to do anything more, and we could not see what changes were taking place. Now we have a lot of versatility and flexibility when it comes to looking at our samples. We’re able to capture all the biological movement in real time.”

Khursigara studies protein-based interactions and bacterial infections, as in patients with cystic fibrosis.

“We will be imaging bacterial host-cell interactions in real time and seeing where the pathogens move during the course of infection,” he said.

“However, there are literally tons of other applications, and this type of microscope has been requested by many researchers on and off campus for several years.”

The device will be available for University of Guelph researchers and external users. It’s thought to be the only such microscope in the tri-cities area.

“There are many areas of research where this will be useful, including companies in pharmaceutical, agricultural, wastewater treatment and food science industries,” said Khursigara.

“We are really excited to finally be able to offer these services. This will be a big boost to our research here at U of G.”

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