Salk Institute celebrates opening of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center

La Jolla, CA--The Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies officially opened on February 9, 2011 after hiring two faculty members specializing in biophotonics and building up its core facility's imaging capacity. Launched with a $20 million gift from the Waitt Foundation, the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center serves as a state-of-the-art research hub, driving the development of next-generation imaging and visualization tools.

Talent from Stanford and Carnegie Mellon
Axel Nimmerjahn, an assistant professor in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and holder of the Richard Allan Barry Developmental chair, joined the Salk Institute from Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) in November of last year. His laboratory focuses on the innovation of optical-microscopy tools that will enable novel studies of enigmatic brain cells called glia. Long thought to be nothing more than support cells, glia have emerged as sophisticated cellular players that make crucial contributions to normal brain physiology and pathology. Glioma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alexander's disease and stroke are just a few examples of diseases glia are critically involved in.

Nimmerjahn has created and continues to develop tools that allow researchers to directly visualize and manipulate glia in the intact healthy and diseased brain. This has led to key insights in glial cell biology with broad implications for our view of brain function, which may eventually culminate in new treatments for neurodegenerative brain disease.

Also from Stanford University, Björn Lillemeier, an assistant professor in both the Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and holder of the Rudolph and Sletten Developmental Chair, joined the Salk Institute in November 2009. In his laboratory he investigates the complex architecture of the plasma membrane--the double layer of lipid molecules that encloses all cells--as well as its contribution to signal transduction mechanisms in T cells, whose main job is to fight infection.

Lillemeier is developing a combination of super-resolution microscopy based on photoactivation localization microscopy (PALM) with dual-color fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (dcFCS) to directly observe the spatial and temporal distribution of membrane-associated molecules on a nanometer scale. Understanding how these mechanisms become altered in diseased cells will provide routes to new therapies for autoimmune diseases and cancer.

James Fitzpatrick, director of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center Core Facility, who joined the Salk Institute from Carnegie Mellon University in December 2009, helps researchers apply both light and electron-based imaging methods to fundamental problems in the life sciences.

Equipment
The core facility is equipped with an Olympus FluoView 1000 MPE coherent anti-Stokes Raman (CARS) microscope, which is the first commercial system of its kind to be installed in North America. It also has a Libra 120 PLUS energy-filtered transmission electron microscope (EF-TEM) from Carl Zeiss Nanotechnology Systems. Other instrumentation includes live-cell confocal and fluorescence microscopy solutions from Carl Zeiss Microimaging, high-speed fluorescence and two-photon microscopy from Olympus America, total-internal-reflection microscopy (TIRFM) from Nikon Instruments, and automation and cell-identification technology from Metasystems International.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is an independent nonprofit organization. Its faculty probes fundamental life-science questions related to cancer, aging, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

 

Posted by John Wallace

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