Immunology Core, left, and researcher Whitney Smith

Left, the Immunology Core is located at the MU Laboratory for Infectious Disease Research, a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Right, Senior Research Specialist Whitney Smith analyzes mouse endothelial cells using the MACSQuant 10 Flow Cytometer.

The University of Missouri's Immunology Core provides researchers with tools for flow cytometry, cell sorting and automated live cell fluorescence microscopy. 

“Flow cytometry leverages the principles of light scattering, fluorescent tagging and electronic detection to analyze thousands of cells per second,” said Jeffrey Whyte, Immunology Core director. “MU investigators are illuminating uncharted cellular landscapes and driving innovations by combining this powerful technology with the core’s cell sorting and microscopy capabilities.”

Not only has flow cytometry been invaluable in immunology and infectious disease research, but Whyte says it has allowed researchers to isolate rare cancer cells, sort distinct stem cell populations, track cell differentiation and proliferation, and assess genome size and ploidy variations for plant breeding.

Three highly trained scientists operate the core, which is located in the Laboratory for Infectious Disease Research (LIDR). Below, Whyte shares more details about this important resource.

What services does the Immunology Core offer?

Our unique facilities allow academic, government and corporate investigators to conduct experiments at both Biosafety Levels (BSL) 2 and 3 with no restrictions on transporting analyzed and sorted samples (BSL-2 or below) from the LIDR. Researchers have access to:

  • State-of-the-art cell sorting and analytical flow cytometry services.
  • Advanced microscopy.
  • Virology services, including virus propagation (e.g., SARS-CoV-2 and influenza), virus characterization (e.g., TCID50 and qPCR) and virus inactivation testing of devices and therapies.
  • Experimental design consultation.

Immunology Core instruments include a Bigfoot Cell Sorter, Tyto Cell Sorter, MACSQuant 10 Flow Cytometer and a Lionheart FX Automated Microscope.

Jeff Whyte

Immunology Core Director Jeff Whyte sorts mouse macrophages on the Thermo Fisher Bigfoot Spectral Cell Sorter.

How does combining methods and services benefit researchers?

The combination of flow cytometry, cell sorting and fluorescent microscopy offers a robust toolkit that allows investigators to perform high-throughput, quantitative analysis, isolation of specific cell populations and detailed visual investigation of cellular processes and structures.

For example, isolating populations of specific cell types by flow cytometry and then sorting those live cells for propagation or genomic analyses can advance our understanding of cell biology and enable targeted therapeutic approaches to disease.

Automated fluorescent microscopy of sorted cells provides high-resolution images of cellular structures and can be used to validate the purity and characteristics of the sorted population, ensuring that the targeted cells have indeed been isolated.

Which research areas benefit most from core services?

Those conducting infectious disease, immune system, developmental biology, oncology, cell biology, drug development and pharmacology studies use the Immunology Core the most. 

How are Mizzou researchers using the core?
  • Deborah Anderson, professor of veterinary pathobiology, combines flow cytometry, cell sorting and live cell microscopy to investigate the modes of action for pathogens, including infectious and attenuated strains of Yersinia pestis and SARS-CoV-2 in mouse models.
  • McKee Endowed Professor Roman Ganta, a Bond Life Sciences Center investigator and faculty member in veterinary pathobiology, uses the Lionheart FX microscope for 96-hour kinetic imaging of live canine immune system cells infected with Ehrlichia chaffeensis. Ganta’s team generates time-lapse video to quantitatively measure fluorescent protein changes in the bacteria over the four days.
  • Jerod Skyberg, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology, and research scientists Mostafa Ateya and Alexis Dadelahi conduct BSL-3 sorting of spleen cells from mice infected with Brucella melitensis. They have demonstrated that B cells alter the T-cell response to Brucella and mediate enhanced susceptibility to brucellosis.
How are external researchers using the core?

Many external clients are corporate entities interested in testing devices, vaccines or pharmaceutical treatments intended to mitigate or inactivate pathogens that threaten public health. We help them devise a scope of work and experimental design that will provide scientific evidence showing a new product’s effectiveness and ability to meet federal regulatory standards. External clients include MRIGlobal, Hecto Group, UV Health Group, Exponent, Integrated Biometrics and V3 Pathoclear Corp. (air purifiers).

How should researchers request services?

Detailed descriptions of our services, instruments, fees and downloadable forms and information are available on our website. For specific services, please contact the following Immunology Core team members:

  • Jeffrey Whyte – Cell sorting with the Bigfoot Cell Sorter, SARS-CoV-2 propagation, plaque assays, experimental design consultation and projects with external contracts.
  • Whitney Smith – Analysis with the MACSQuant Flow Cytometer, MACSQuant Tyto Cell Sorter, RNA isolation and qPCR assays.
  • Kristina Babic – Imaging with the Lionheart FX Automated Microscope and tissue culture services.