New State-of-the-art Microscopy Facility at Trinity will have Major Implications for Biomedical Research in Ireland

Posted on: 25 September 2014

The Super Resolution Confocal Microscopy Suite in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI), the first of its kind in Ireland was launched this week by Minister Paul Kehoe, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach & Defence. The new state-of-the-art microscopic equipment will enable the study of cells and materials at cellular and molecular level, or 1/2000 the thickness of a human hair and will have major implications for human, animal and plant health. 

Trinity College has invested in state-of-the art confocal microscopes in the suite that enable the study of cells and materials at cellular and molecular level. These microscopes were supplied by Leica Microsystems and were funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Higher Education Authority Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) and Trinity Schools and researchers.

The highest resolution (using STED technology) is 50nm, or 1/2000 the thickness of a human hair, filling the gap between traditional confocal microscopy and electron microscopy.

The images below show a comparison between STED and conventional confocal microscopy. The image shows a neuromuscular junction. Substructures can now be visualised with the STED technology, which were otherwise unrecognisable in conventional confocal microscopes.

This resolution enables researchers to see into cells and to study reactions happening in cells in ways that have not been possible to date in Ireland. This will help to answer fundamental scientific questions in biosciences with major implications for human, animal and plant health. The high resolution will also benefit research in nanoscience.

The suite supports the research of over 40 research groups in a variety of different locations including Trinity’s schools, institutes, laboratories, hospitals and  spin-out companies and hospitals. They include schools such as Biochemistry and Immunology, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Engineering, Chemistry, Medicine, Genetics, Microbiology, Zoology, Dentistry, Histopathology and Pathology Research Laboratory, the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Institute of Molecular Medicine at St James’s Hospital, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. It supports spin-out companies from Trinity as well as other companies engaged in research collaborations with Trinity.

This is the first high resolution equipment in Ireland and the vendor company has established TBSI as a reference site. The vendors will collaborate with TBSI to develop new applications and TBSI will participate in European user meetings for the development of the technology, maintaining TBSI and Trinity at the forefront of this technology for the coming years.

Commenting on the significance of the new facility, Dean of Research, Professor Vinny Cahill said: “TBSI now has the leading confocal microscopy facility in Ireland, making it a national Centre of Excellence for Confocal Microscopy, maintaining research excellence, relevance and quality, and underpinning TBSI’s and Trinity’s leading position in biomedical research. It represents a continuing investment in making Ireland a great place to do excellent research whose impact will extend to a large number of researchers in different disciplines in Trinity, as well as researchers in other universities and industry, to whom access is available. It will support Trinity’s research in cancer, immunology, inflammation and infection, nanoscience, genetics, neuroscience and medical device technology. It will also  support industry  and generate international collaboration.”

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