De Picciotto-Lesser Cell Observatory Report December 2017

6 Dec 2017

 

Following is a report on the activities of the de Picciotto-Lesser Cancer Cell Observatory in memory of Wolf and Ruth Lesser. Thanks to the support of Mr. Michael de Picciotto our research facility is able to provide Weizmann Institute researchers with the cutting edge optical imaging technologies needed to address the many questions that can come up when studying biological models.  The Observatory operates within the Weizmann Institute Life Science Core Facilities and supports three inter-dependent levels of biological imaging:

  1. Data collection – using the advanced imaging technologies in the facility
  2. Data visualization and storage – based on the infrastructure of advanced analysis stations, specialized analysis software and dedicated servers
  3. Data analysis – under the direction of our image analysis experts, we develop and implement tools that make it possible to transform visual images into quantitative, useable data. Our staff supports experimental groups by providing image analysis solutions for data originating from multiple imaging modalities including optical microscopy, MRI, CT, and others.

The Observatory offers guidance and training to scientists as well as students in the Feinberg Graduate School, training them how to devise proper workflow and investigation strategies in order to achieve particular goals.

Since its inauguration two years ago, the Observatory has provided imaging and analytical services to 62 different research groups from nine Weizmann Institute departments. For example, recent projects have included a study by the group of Prof. Ronen Alon which looked at the interaction between lung cancer cells and components of the immune system in an intact lung. The Observatory also collaborated with the team of Prof. Eli Zelzer, whose research required our imaging tools’ clear differentiation between muscles and blood vessels, and cartilage.  In another study, directed by Prof. Benny Shilo, our team used fluorescent microscopy to reveal gene transcription dynamics in the fruit fly embryo – something that reveals important developmental information about the formation of all organisms, including humans.

The Observatory’s current equipment base consists of three microscopy systems. The Z1 Lightsheet (Zeiss) is a fluorescent microscope designed for relatively large live samples, which enables imaging of three dimensional structures without distortion.  The UltraMicroscope II (La-vision) is a fluorescent system designed for large samples such as organs and embryos.  It is unique in its ability to image samples in a variety of media, including water and organic solvents, something that allows scientists to make opaque biological samples clear.  This enables imaging within intact organs without disrupting the organ’s 3D structure.  The TCS-SP8 (Leica) is a powerful two-photon microscope, with a special capability for working on thick live or fixed samples in 2D, 3D and 4D (4D refers to the ability to analyze data related not only the physical structure of an object, but how that object changes over time).

The Lightsheet Z1 by Zeiss (left) is a fluorescent microscope designed for relatively large live samples.  It is useful for imaging water based samples of organisms or organs.  The Two-photon microscope by Leica (right) use low intensity infrared radiation to excite fluorescent dyes, allowing the imaging of live tissues without bleaching or photo-damage.

In order to determine our future direction and address emerging challenges in the field of scientific imaging, we are continually testing new technologies.  We host demonstrations of new tools and techniques, and invite relevant groups of Weizmann Institute investigators to test these systems out to see if they meet their specific needs. Based on this type of demonstration, the Observatory plans to acquire additional microscopic capabilities: spinning disc confocal, live cell imaging, and Stimulated Remission Depletion (STED), a type of super resolution microscopy that makes it possible to bypass the diffraction limit of light microscopy, and achieve increased resolution.

In addition to its microscopic equipment, the Observatory provides Weizmann teams with the commercial software needed for various types of imaging projects, as well as sophisticated data storage facilities.  The Observatory recently added two high power image analysis workstations to its equipment infrastructure.

Two new staff members recently joined the Observatory: Dr. Michal Shemesh, a microscopy expert, and Dr. Guillaume Molodij, who specializes in bio-imaging and analysis.  Dr. Shemesh, who completed her PhD in the Weizmann Institute’s department of Structural Biology, has particular expertise in the examination of processes related to bone formation.  Dr. Molodij, who trained as an astrophysicist in his native France, has helped create new image analysis techniques, based on methods borrowed from astronomy.

This past March, the Observatory was involved in the organization of a two-day workshop called the Advanced Imaging School, which was designed to share our knowledge about established and emerging tools and imaging techniques.  This sort of event makes an important contribution to scientists’ ability to pursue their research, and achieve significant results.

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