Microscope a key contributor to Gillies McIndoe Research Institute research programme
Talk of an FV1200 Olympus ‘laser’ confocal microscope with live cell imaging means nothing to most people – but to the GMRI it’s a prized possession which has assisted with many scientific breakthroughs.
GMRI Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Tinte Itinteang, says the microscope is a “key contributor” to the GMRI’s research.
The microscope can identify which cells are different from the rest in a tissue sample and, most importantly, why.
“For example, we can identify cancer stem cells within tongue squamous cell cancers by their unique expression pattern of stem cell markers, unlike all the other cells,” Dr Itinteang says.
“This then allows more focused research to better identify the cells and proteins of interest within the diseased tissue.
“Consequently, we can identify proteins that control these cancer stem cells, giving us further insights into what controls their activity – and therefore, how we might be able to switch them off,” he says.
Matt Munro, one of the operators of the GMRI laser microscope, says “the confocal microscope concept is that out-of-focus fluorescent light is rejected in creating the final image.”
The microscope can produce an image from a section of a sample, and with subsequent scans the user can identify many thin optical sections to create a complete three-dimensional image of the sample.
It uses lasers at different wavelengths and identifies exactly where in a cell there is a ‘unique’ protein.
“There are many key platforms for novel discovery at the GMRI, but the beauty of this technology is that it tells you which cells are unique (for example cancer stem cells), how many there are, and which proteins are expressed within a tissue piece,” Dr Itinteang says.
Dr Itinteang became familiar with confocal microscopy during his PhD study at Victoria University of Wellington, and could see its application to the work of the GMRI.
“Of the over 30 manuscripts the GMRI has published in recent years, most have contained confocal microscopy data, so it’s very well utilised.
“We have certainly been very happy with the confocal microscope as an investment.”