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Cellular Imaging Techniques Highlight Regenerative Medicine Research

The Center for Biologic Imaging’s expertise in light and electron microscopy provides a glimpse into the tiniest of worlds, yielding big benefits for researchers.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biologic Imaging (CBI) provides centralized imaging services including light fluorescent microscopy, confocal laser scanning, electron microscopy, advanced computer-aided morphometry, and image analysis. The CBI’s expertise in light and electron microscopy provides a glimpse into the tiniest of worlds, yielding big benefits for researchers. CBI prides itself on being a leading center in the application of cellular imaging from the single molecule to the whole animal. A comprehensive overview of the efforts of CBI was recently featured in the University Times by Kimberly Barlow; parts of her story are included here.

“When you go to any poster day at the medical school or anywhere, you’ll see our pictures everywhere,” says McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Simon Watkins, PhD, founder and director of CBI. Dr. Watkins is a member of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, director of the graduate program and a professor within the department of cell biology and physiology. In addition to his responsibilities to the university, Dr. Watkins serves as a member on the research advisory board of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

CBI provides investigators with a wide range of cellular imaging techniques that can focus their view down to a single molecule. With more than 2 dozen microscopes and a staff of about 20 that includes 4 faculty members, it is among the largest, if not the largest such facility in the country, Dr. Watkins said.

Visitors to CBI’s suite in the Starzl Biomedical Science Tower need not look far for examples. One wall is a veritable library of journal covers featuring CBI microscopy images; another has row upon row of recently published articles to demonstrate CBI’s capabilities to prospective collaborators.

The images are fascinating not only for their scientific value but for their intricacy and beauty as well. Electron microscopes yield black and white images; colors are added or contrast enhanced for clarity as photos are edited, said McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member and CBI associate director Donna Stolz, PhD, who clearly enjoys both the scientific and the aesthetic value of the images. Dr. Stolz is also an associate professor in the department of cell biology and physiology.

CBI’s images grace journal covers, enhance research publications, and make colorful eye-catching works of art, but their real beauty lies beneath the surface — just a few millimeters deep.

The center houses some $10 million worth of equipment — some of which has come through grants, with other instruments on loan or placed for testing by industry. “When we have instrumentation that we get grants for, we’re generally working at the edge of what’s possible so we’re getting things that don’t exist elsewhere or we’re doing something novel,” Dr. Watkins said. “We have all the technologies that are available. The reason we’re successful is because we’re at the edge of what you can do.”

Illustration: Center for Biologic Imaging.

Read more…

Pitt University Times (01/06/11)

Center for Biologic Imaging

Bio: Dr. Simon Watkins

Bio: Dr. Donna Stolz