Live cell imaging facility to aid research

A new core facility at UT Southwestern is aiding researchers in their efforts to gain a better understanding of processes taking place within the body's cells.

Four new microscopes comprising the Live Cell Imaging Core Facility allow researchers in both the clinical and the basic sciences to view living cells and track biological processes with three-dimensional clarity.

The high-power instruments, all capable of fluorescence microscopy, are available to researchers across campus.

"This type of equipment either hasn't been available on campus or has been under-represented," said Dr. Katherine Luby-Phelps, associate professor of cell biology and director of Live Cell Imaging Core Facility. "These microscopes bring us up to par with other top research institutions, very few of which have all four instruments available in a core facility."

The campus community is invited to an open house for the South Campus facility on June 17 from noon to 5 p.m. in rooms K1.300, K1.246 and K1.A06 in the Philip R. Jonsson Basic Science Research Building.

Dr. Luby-Phelps said one of the challenges of imaging live cells using fluorescence is that parts of the image tend to be out of focus. One of the new microscopes removes these out-of-focus areas using special computer operations, while the other three employ optical techniques to clarify the image.

A spinning disk confocal microscope, capable of producing time-lapse videos, captures extremely fast biological processes and can be environmentally controlled to mimic a cell's natural environment. The total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, or TIRF, is used primarily for studies of proteins and receptors in cell membranes. A deconvolution microscope, used especially for examining yeast and bacteria, and a laser-scanning confocal microscope, employed for larger and thicker specimens, also are available. More information about the facility is available at

While the new core facility is particularly suited for studies of live cells, "we can look at dead cells, too," Dr. Luby-Phelps said.