Developing zebra fish

This developing zebrafish embryo with motor neurons expressing green fluorescent protein is a composite of more than 2,200 individual images acquired on a light sheet microscope and then merged and rendered in 3D. Anand Chandrasekhar, professor of biological sciences, and his lab are using this animal model to study the mechanisms of motor neuron diseases. Photo courtesy of the the Advanced Light Microscopy Core

The Advanced Light Microscopy Core (ALMC) facility has been meeting the needs of University of Missouri researchers for more than 30 years in the life sciences and other disciplines requiring visualization and documentation of objects, materials and structures undetectable by the naked eye.

“The light microscope employs visible light to detect small objects,” says Alexander Jurkevich, ALMC assistant director. “It is probably the most recognizable and one of the most widely used instruments of science.”

Jurkevich says the resolving power and complexity of light microscopes have advanced rapidly since the 16th century when they were invented. He and Frank Baker, ALMC imaging specialist, assist life scientists studying bacteria, plants, animals and humans and those from other disciplines, such as environmental, biomedical and materials engineering; paleontology; food science; and food safety.

About 170 researchers from nearly 90 labs use the ALMC annually. Below, Jurkevich answers questions about the core’s capabilities and services.

What is the core’s role on campus?

Located in the Bond Life Sciences Center, the core is a shared resource open to the entire Mizzou community and to researchers from other academic institutions and industry. Investigators can access imaging services, training, consultation and state-of-the-art light microscopy instruments, including widefield, confocal, super-resolution and stereomicroscopy.

The ALMC was established in 1991 as the Molecular Cytology Core to meet the needs of campus researchers in the training and use of advanced light microscopes and quantitative image analysis. Since then, the core has made cutting-edge microscopy accessible to hundreds of scientists.                                                   

What are your research capabilities and services?

Presently, the core hosts nine microscopy systems (including two super-resolution systems), four microtomes for making various types of tissue sections and two computer workstations with software for processing and quantitative 3D analysis of microscopy images.

Several microscopy rooms at the ALMC are certified for research with pathogens under Biosafety Level 2.

Microscopy of living cells is an important tool used to understand the dynamics of cellular processes and to develop new therapeutics. This summer, the core is expecting to expand its live cell imaging capabilities by adding the Andor Dragonfly 602 system, a powerful high-speed and high-sensitivity spinning disk imaging platform with options for targeted dynamic illumination in various cell biology applications, including uncaging, photo-switching and optogenetics.  

How are researchers using the core?

A few examples:

  • Guido Lastra, associate professor of medicine and Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital investigator, is using ALMC imaging services to study the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease with a focus on the relationship between vascular stiffness, obesity and diabetes mellitus.
  • Ahmed Balboula, assistant professor of animal sciences, is using cutting-edge time-lapse microscopy and photoactivatable probes to understand how chromosome segregation is regulated in female gametes (oocytes). During the early stages of pregnancy, the incorrect segregation of chromosomes can result in aneuploidy (i.e., an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell), the leading genetic cause of miscarriages and congenital abnormalities.
  • Gary Stacey, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Plant Science and Technology, and his team use the stereomicroscope, confocal and widefield fluorescent microscopes weekly to conduct plant research. They have often sought advice from core staff members, whose expertise has helped them obtain images for publications.
  • Yves C. Chabu, assistant professor of biological sciences, is using confocal microscopy and 3D analysis to understand the mechanisms controlling tissue size across biological scales. He and his team are investigating how mutations promote tumor overgrowth, metastasis and drug resistance.
  • Caixia “Ellen” Wan, associate professor of biological and biomedical engineering, uses confocal microscopy services to explore novel biochemical conversion processes for the sustainable production of biofuels and bioproducts.
What is something people may not know about the core?

For over 20 years the ALMC has held an annual Light Microscopy Image Contest, which showcases the work of core users and generates broader interest in the core’s capabilities. Participating researchers can submit their best images taken with any ALMC instrument. A winner chosen by popular vote is revealed during Show Me Research Week, and the winning image is added to a virtual gallery of images on the ALMC website. 

How should researchers request services?

Before starting a project that requires light microscopy or image analysis, investigators are encouraged to schedule a no-cost consultation to discuss sample preparation, staining and imaging techniques. Email Jurkevich or Baker to request services or schedule a consultation. Research also can be performed on a collaborative basis with ALMC staff.