Now open for business: A new NeuroTechnology Studio now offers individual investigators in the neurosciences access to advanced instrumentation, tools and expert support.
The goal of the NeuroTechnology Studio is to leverage advances in microscopy, cell sorting and informatics to speed research and drive new understanding of brain function and of mechanisms underlying nervous system disorders. The Studio’s first two instruments for advanced imaging are installed and in use: GE IN Cell Analyzer 2200 (a widefield high-content imaging system) and Zeiss LSM880 + AiryScan confocal/super-resolution microscope.
These powerful instruments enable researchers to analyze images with superior resolution and higher throughput, to answer essential biological questions and thereby gain clinical insights more quickly. A key benefit of the studio comes via staff scientists and technicians who are being hired to help investigators optimize the technology, ensure quality of the emerging data, and assist with data interpretation.
“For researchers to know exactly what new machines, tools, and resources are available and who to talk to is priceless,” said Ulf Dettmer, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology. Dettmer has engineered nerve cells to monitor the aggregation of alpha-synuclein, the key altered protein in Parkinson’s disease, via the formation of puncta that are visualized by fluorescence. Using the IN CELL, Dettmer has analyzed up to 12 plates (each with 384 wells) in a single day – enabling his lab to screen more than 3,000 compounds for novel modifiers of Parkinson’s disease pathology.
“For many questions, [the] tedious image acquisition by a scientist sitting at a microscope all day has become unnecessary. The IN Cell Analyzer can get you high-quality data much faster and more error-free,” said Dettmer. “Plus the machine is of course totally unbiased — another big advantage.”
The NeuroTechnology Studio is part of the BWH Program for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (PIN), directed by Martin A. Samuels, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurology. The Studio reflects $8 million in philanthropic contributions.
“We’re bringing in technology that otherwise might be too big, too complicated or too expensive for acquisition in a single laboratory. And we’re casting a broad net for its use,” said Charles Jennings, PhD, the newly-arrived executive director of PIN. “We hope to share resources to bring people together — to unite researchers across the hospital.”
The NeuroTechnology Studio is open to any BWH researcher involved in neuroscience research. Investigators in neurology, psychiatry, pathology and neurosurgery have used the NeuroTechnology Studio so far, with others planning to use it soon.
The Zeiss LSM880 + AiryScan confocal/super-resolution microscope is what Lai Ding, PhD, the Studio’s senior imaging scientist, calls the “flagship” for the NeuroTechnology Studio. It offers high sensitivity, enhanced resolution in x, y and z, and high image-acquisition speed in one system. It also supports long term live cell imaging experiments.
The Studio’s instruments are in the newly named Hale Building for Transformative Medicine. Most are currently on the 10th floor; later this year the studio will be consolidated on the 7th floor in a space that is currently under construction.
A strong unifying force for the Studio is Ding, who was the first hire for the Studio’s scientific team and who previously managed the neuroimaging core at the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center. At the BWH NeuroTech Studio, he oversees use and scheduling of the imaging instruments. He also is available to assist with data analysis and computation needs.
For a training session or to pilot any of the systems, researchers can contact Ding directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-264—5956.
The Studio is being developed over the next three to four years. “One year in, it’s been a great success,” said Samuels. “It brings resources to the table.”