Trinity Researchers Win Inaugural GE Healthcare High-Content Analysis Award

Posted on: 08 November 2010

Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Medicine and the Centre for High-Content Analysis in Trinity College Dublin who investigate how white blood cells (T lymphocytes) move in the body during an immune response were the winners of GE Healthcare’s High-Content Analysis (HCA) Award. The award recognises the outstanding contribution of HCA to scientific understanding and celebrates its positive impact on data quality and quantity, and in transforming the efficiency of research and discovery.

The award winning work from TCD was carried out by Dr Michael Freeley and Dr Dara Dunican, the lead authors on the study, in association with Gabor Bakos of TCD, Dr Anthony Davies, Head of the National Centre for HCA at TCD, Professor Dermot Kelleher, Director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Vice Provost for Medical Affairs at TCD, and Dr Aideen Long, Principal Investigator and Senior Lecturer at TCD.  The research is important because although movement of T lymphocytes from the blood stream into target tissues is crucial to mount an effective immune response against pathogenic microorganisms and viruses, unregulated migration of T lymphocytes into tissues is also a major contributing factor in auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.  A better understanding of this process could ultimately lead to treatments that selectively block this migration in these diseases.

These researchers used the IN Cell Analyser 1000 to measure a wide range of parameters related to cell shape and identify which ones provided the most valuable information when T lymphocytes were exposed to a stimulus that triggers them to migrate.  They also demonstrated that using multiple parameters increased the sensitivity of hit selection, which helps in reducing the number of false positives.  These researchers are now using this technology developed with the IN Cell Analyser to investigate the signaling pathways and proteins that regulate T lymphocyte migration.

“We are delighted to receive the first HCA Award,” said Dr Michael Freeley.  “Quite simply, the scale of work that we performed could not have been done by manual means, and we estimate that the HCA approach has increased our throughput at least 20-fold.  Capturing the same number of fields manually would have taken in the region of 400 hours, with the IN Cell Analyser image analysis software saving us a comparable amount of time”.  Professor Kelleher added: “Using the IN Cell Analyser has revolutionised what we can do in our laboratory which focuses on the cell biology of the immune response.  The IN Cell Analyser is allowing us to define the crucial proteins involved in T lymphocyte migration much more rapidly and this approach now allows us to target this process in discovery research.”

Entries were welcomed from scientists using IN Cell Analysers.  Entries were reviewed by an expert scientific panel comprising of Dr Joe Trask, Head of Cellular Imaging Core at Hamner Institutes of Health Services, Dr Nick Thomas, Principal Scientist, Cell Technologies, GE Healthcare and Dr Patrick Lo, Associate Editor, BioTechniques.  Head of Cellular Imaging Core at Hamner Institutes of Health Services, and a member of the judging panel, Dr Joe Trask said: “The excellent quality of the entries certainly made judging difficult.  The winning entry showcased the immensely positive impact of HCA on research today and demonstrated how the IN Cell Analyser’s technology saved invaluable time to produce high quality scientific data that, crucially, was also publishable.”

Principal Scientist at GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and member of the judging panel, Dr Nick Thomas added: “This multiparameter approach has great potential to increase insights in a wide range of chemical and RNA inhibition screens.”

The HCA Award will be presented to Dr Michael Freeley and his co-author Dr Dara Dunican at the 50th American Society of Cell Biology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in December 2010.  GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), recently announced the winner of the first annual GE Healthcare HCA Award which is supported by BioTechniques.  The award-winning work has appeared as a peer-reviewed article which can be viewed here.

Freeley et al. Journal of BioMolecular Screening (2010) 15(5): 541-555