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The BD Pathway light microscope quantifies what it sees

Published on
October 1, 2012

Once you have taught the BD Pathway microscope what to look for, it can run an entire experiment by itself. It pipets, autofocuses the lens, takes pictures, changes filters, takes another picture, moves to the next well, focuses again, takes the required snapshots, etcetera. And what’s more, it converts the information from the pictures into statistics, graphs and 3D images of the cells.

This saves researchers so much time that Jerry Wells, Professor of Host-Microbe Interactions at Wageningen UR, is convinced that some breakthroughs in science would have been impossible without the BD Pathway. “For instance, 30,000 images had to be taken and analysed to find out that extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) manages to survive in a cell using one of the 900 proteins in that cell. It would have cost way too much money to have all required laboratory tests done by personnel.”

The BD Pathway is designed to monitor processes inside living cells; the pathways. The environment inside the machine can be controlled to keep cells alive for a longer period. A wide variety of probes in cells can be monitored, but the microscope is also capable of measuring the shapes and sizes of a cell or cell organelles during the experiments. “The BD Pathway stores and processes all these parameters as data. It quantifies what it sees”, tells Wageningen UR researcher Jurgen Karczewski enthusiastically. Data gathered through this so-called high content analysis of images can well be used in combination with other analyses, such as those used in proteomics, metabolomics and genomics, Karczewski adds. ”The BD pathway adds cellular behaviour to structural information, that opens up new and exciting ways to explore complex mechanisms.”

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Karczewski uses the brand new machine for a variety of studies. “We have developed new short-lived probes, fluorescent proteins that light up when there is activity in the cells. We want to monitor activity, so the probes should only light up when the cell responds to stimulus”, Karczewski explains. For instance, for projects of the Top Institute Food and Nutrition he studies interactions between micro-organisms inside the guts and inside the mouth. “We can apply fractions of fibres, bacteria or medication and see how this affects the gut or mouth cells. We can also observe how cells interact, how they move, how they grow, etcetera. What’s interesting is that several of these aspects can now be monitored simultaneously, which gives very new insight into cellular behaviour of host-microbe interactions.”

Interested in using the BD Pathway? Contact Dr Jurgen Karczewski. “We will help to translate questions of clients into a protocol for the BD Pathway, so that the machine provides the client with data that give answers to those questions.