Microscopes are tools that researchers have used for more than 200 years to visualize cells, but only in the past five years has it been possible to visualize single molecules in living cells. This new technology has enhanced research by allowing scientists to see and describe the innermost parts of cells.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center unveiled a new state-of-the-art Image Analysis Core Facility this year. It means researchers now have the tools to help discover new ways to study, diagnose and heal human diseases.
When you look at it from the researcher's perspective, you're always trying to see things in greater detail. This core facility is providing just that—some of the best resolution available to researchers across the country.
One of the instruments is called N-STORM, short for Nikon Stochastic Optical Resolution Microscopy. That's a fancy name for an amazing new microscope that can enlarge an image 6 to 10 thousand times more than what the human eye can see.
The microscope uses fluorescent probes to mark tiny parts of cells. It scans the images 50,000 times over several hours to come up with intricate detail of the smallest part of the body. The images can then be combined to form three-dimensional structures to obtain an even greater focus of the shapes of proteins within the cells.
Proteins interact with each other and can activate themselves to do some function—like make a fingerprint. Some of this equipment uses florescent colors to break up each function of each protein so that we can see it more clearly.
The precise imaging will help scientists study how viruses enter cells, eventually coming up with better ways to fight them off….and prevent diseases.
Another example is in the Laser Scanning application which generates slices from microscopic samples. The sample stays intact, while the slicing may be repeated many times. So, you don't need to cut the samples… instead new 3-d imaging can just rotate a sample so it can be viewed from any angle.
This "down to the core" technology gives us another level of information that we didn't have before. The Image Analysis Core Facility will help researchers find answers to numerous health issues…from colds to cancer.
For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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