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New Optical Imaging Center provides microscope technology (9-10-99)

Researchers can probe the inner workings of living cells and tissues with an array of optical microscope technology now available in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The recently acquired technology is used in applications as varied as cancer research, heart disease research and the development of virtual reality-based training tools.

The recently opened Optical Imaging Center contains three different high-level microscopes for use in everything from looking at changes in a cell's level of acidity to examining how cellular constituents interact with one another.

"With this technology we are able to look at a variety of different events as they occur in the cells," said Brian Herman, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology and director of the new facility. "And more importantly, we can observe the process in its natural environment."

The center's microscopy technology includes standard wide-field microscopes outfitted with sensitive digital cameras; a confocal microscope, which works like a CT scanner for cells and tissue; and a multiphoton microscope, which reduces the amount of damage to tissue samples and cells by using less energy, allowing researchers to penetrate deeper into the sample.

The facility is available to investigators both within and outside the university. Victoria Frohlich, Ph.D., a research assistant professor who is skilled in the design, development and applications of the various microscopes, operates the facility along with a computer engineer.

Plans are being made for future uses for the center, including a biennial course in optical microscopy for the biological sciences, jointly sponsored by the Health Science Center and Hamamatsu Photonics. During the off years, the Health Science Center and Hamamatsu Photonics will sponsor an international meeting on the recent advances in microscopy.

Contact: Will Sansom or Heather Feldman