Biologists will be able to see more – using a new microscopy lab of the Nencki Institute
A unique combination of devices for light and electron microscopy has been installed in the Neurobiology Centre of the Nencki Institute, Warsaw, Poland. This equipment will soon be applied by researchers to better understand the structure, function and capabilities of the human brain.
Three-dimensional mapping of the internal structure of nervous cells and microscopic brain observation in living organisms – are only some of the capabilities offered by the Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function, which has just opened in the Neurobiology Centre of the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw. This new lab, established as part of the Centre for Preclinical Research and Technology (CePT), is a core research facility and will complete assignments for Nencki scientists and outside research groups as well as attempt to further the development of microscopic imaging.
“We successfully combined many microscopic techniques in one laboratory, starting from those based on the analysis of practically all parameters of visible light through imaging techniques based on an electron beam. Such an approach will help us obtain more comprehensive images of cell and tissue physiology and more precise images of their structure. We will also be able to collect information at the microscopic level about what is going on in a live nervous tissue”, explains Dr Tytus Bernaś, the new lab’s head.
Research carried out in the Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function is conducted using confocal and two-photon excitation microscopy, time resolved imaging, super resolution and correlation microscopy. Especially interesting is the fluorescence confocal microscope operating in tandem with the electron microscope. This set – which is unique in Poland – combines high resolution, characteristic for electron imaging techniques, with the wealth of biological information provided by images obtained by using light. An additional advantage of this set is its capability for automatic imaging of a 3D structure of tissue and cells preparations. The resolution of these devices is so great that it is possible to observe not only the whole cells but also the internal structure of their parts (e.g. only cell nuclei or axons).
Since neurobiological research dominates the scientific activity of the Nencki Institute, an important piece of equipment in the new lab is a microscope for quick imaging of thick fragments of live nervous tissue. It allows researchers microscopic observation of changes occurring in the brains of mice and rats – practically in real time. These observations will help study brain plasticity, which plays an important role in mental processes related to learning, memory, cognitive aging, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases or regaining mental fitness following a stroke.
“In the upcoming months we will have completed building our own super resolution microscope, using adaptive optics to model wave-front of light”, stresses Dr Bernaś. This device, constructed in cooperation with the team of Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski from the Faculty of Physics of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, will use the sample itself, which usually hinders microscopic imaging, as an additional optical element. As a result scientists expect to achieve higher resolution than the one allowed by the microscope optics. To analyse the images they will use algorithms developed by Dr Błażej Ruszczycki from the Nencki Institute.
The Centre for Preclinical Research and Technology CePT, of which the Nencki Institute is a partner, is the largest biomedical and biotechnological undertaking in Central and Eastern Europe. The budget of this project amounts to over 388 million PLN, of which 85% comes from the European Fund for Regional Development. Under CePT a network of related core facility labs is being established, integrating research and implementation activities of various scientific institutions of the Ochota Research Centre. These labs allow to conduct basic and preclinical research at the highest European level in the area of protein structural and functional analysis, physics, chemistry and nanotechnology of biomaterials, molecular biotechnology, instrumental support for medical technologies, pathophysiology and physiology, oncology, genomics, neurobiology and ageing-related diseases.
The Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences has been established in 1918 and is the largest non-university centre for biological research in Poland. Priority fields for the Institute include neurobiology, neurophysiology, cellular biology and biochemistry and molecular biology – at the level of complexity from tissue organisms through cellular organelles to proteins and genes. There are 31 labs at the Institute, among them modern Laboratory of Confocal Microscopy, Laboratory of Cytometry, Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, Behavioural and Electrophysiological Tests. The Institute is equipped with state-of-the-art research equipment and modernized animal house, where lab animals are bred, also transgenic animals, in accordance with the highest standards. Quality of experiments, publications and close ties with the international science community, place the Institute among the leading biological research centres in Europe.
Dr Tytus Bernaś
Head of Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function
Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw
tel. +48 22 5892447
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Combining fluorescence confocal microscopy with electron microscopy will help researchers from the Neurobiology Centre of the Nencki Institute better understand the structure and function of nervous cells and tissue. Pictured above: Dr Tytus Bernaś from the Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function. (Source: Nencki Institute, Grzegorz Krzyżewski)