The power to see biology in action

The power to see biology in action

Illuminate newsletter, September 2017
September 2017

Dr Niall Geoghegan and Dr Lachlan Whitehead
Dr Niall Geoghegan (left) and Dr Lachlan Whitehead built
the Institute’s lattice light sheet microscope.

Visualising biological mechanisms and behaviours is a gateway to understanding disease.

Our Centre for Dynamic Imaging supports the work of more than 50 laboratories across the Institute.

The facility is led by Dr Kelly Rogers, and run by a team with expertise in biology, physics, engineering and mathematics. It houses more than 10 high-end microscopes, most of which allow for live imaging.

"Our core team trains and advises researchers on advanced microscopy."

Dr Rogers said the centre was highly engaged in Institute research into cancer, immune disorders and infectious diseases.

“Our core team trains and advises researchers on advanced microscopy, as well as implements and develops highly innovative imaging tools in-house to help advance projects,” she said.

Building powerful technologies

The team recently completed building a new microscope, the lattice light sheet microscope, invented by Nobel prize-winning physicist Professor Eric Betzig from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, US.

“We are the first institution in Australia to build a clone of Betzig’s lattice light sheet microscope from the ground up,” Dr Rogers said.

Dr Rogers said the team’s ability to implement and adapt pre-commercial instrumentation in-house would keep Institute researchers competitive on a global stage.

Ability to see in 4D

“Technologies such as the lattice light sheet microscope give our researchers the ability to look at biology in 4D – that’s getting up close and personal with live samples, in their natural environment, at high resolution and in real time.

"Light-sheet-based technology will...answer questions that have been beyond our grasp."

"Researchers will now be able to capture spectacular images from single cells and tissue slices, right through to whole organs.

“Light-sheet-based technology will cause a significant shift in how we can visualise and investigate cancers, infectious diseases and inflammation in the body, and answer questions that have been beyond our grasp,” Dr Rogers said.

Advancing research through imaging

Malaria researcher Professor Alan Cowman is using the lattice light sheet microscope to understand the behaviour of the deadly malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

"For the first time we have a chance to record in real time the entire growth of the parasite inside human cells."

Professor Cowman said the lattice light sheet enabled his team to visualise, in unprecedented detail, how the parasite infects and grows in human red blood cells.

“We are now able to obtain detailed 3D recordings of live parasites invading red blood cells. For the first time we have a chance to record in real time the entire growth of the parasite inside human cells. All that thanks to cutting-edge technology that makes the microscope extremely fast and gentle for the imaged sample,” Professor Cowman said.

“This new level of insight affords a detailed understanding of the ‘blood stage’ and brings us closer to finding vaccines and new treatments for malaria, a disease responsible for 450,000 deaths worldwide each year.

"It’s a really exciting time to be working with new imaging technologies at the frontier of malaria research,” he said.

Roots by Casey Ah-Cann
'Roots' by Casey Ah-Cann, winner of the Art of Science
2017 still image category.

‘Artistic’ imaging

During National Science Week, the Institute held an exhibition of the best images of 2017 as part of its annual Art of Science competition.

"Art of Science shows how imaging helps to unlock secrets of biology."

Held at Melbourne’s Federation Square, the exhibition featured striking images and movies captured by Institute scientists and is a platform for engaging the public with the wonders and necessity of medical research.

Dr Rogers said the exhibition was the embodiment of how imaging helped to advance scientific discovery.

“Art of Science shows how imaging helps to unlock secrets of biology – for instance, how the body functions normally or how diseases develop and respond to treatment,” Dr Rogers said.

“The exhibition is a rich visual journey telling intriguing stories of exploration and discovery.”

Go behind the scenes with Stephen Mieruszynski and learn about how imaging advances his work:

Super Content: 
Associate Professor Edwin Hawkins with imaging equipment

Associate Professor Edwin Hawkins and his team have answered the longstanding question of how leukaemia survives chemotherapy, bringing the world closer to more effective blood cancer treatments.​