Oxford awarded cutting-edge microscopy by BBSRC


Professor Ilan Davis and colleagues at Oxford have won one of 20 awards from the BBSRC for advanced scientific research instruments aimed at helping to keep the UK at the forefront of biological sciences research.

Ilan Davis together with Shankar Srinivas and Paul Riley from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Jordan Raff at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and Roger Patient at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine have been awarded a Fluorescence Light Sheet Microscope worth almost £500k. The instrument will enable groups from Oxford and further afield to examine dynamic processes within living cells and tissues in exquisite detail.

The 20 grants which are worth £10m in total are funded under the BBSRC’s Advanced Life Sciences Research Technology initiative (ALERT 13).

The light sheet microscope is only the second of its type to be installed in the UK. It has been commercialised by Zeiss following the invention of the technique by Ernst Seltzer at EMBL. The technique only illuminates the part of the specimen being examined so unlike other types of microscopy it produces minimal sample damage.

‘It carries out tomography in 3D exceptionally well,’ says Professor Davis. ‘For example, Roger Patient has generated some beautiful images of beating zebrafish hearts.’

Other applications of the equipment which has been optimised for 3D reconstruction of large tissues include imaging of mouse early embryos and the Drosophila larval nervous system. The microscope should enable exciting advances in a broad range of areas in cell, developmental and stem cell biology.

The ALERT 13 scheme is intended to support equipment which will get maximum use and will be shared by many research groups. The Fluorescent Light Sheet Microscope will be housed within and managed by the Micron Oxford Advanced Bioimaging Unit where it will be widely accessible to researchers within and outside Oxford.

‘Once we get the microscope off the ground, there are going to be many different users,’ says Professor Davis who adds that it is quite different from other microscopes within Micron. ‘It adds to the range of methods already available - and no one method is applicable to everything.’

Jordan Raff was part of another successful Oxford bid, from Brookes University. The 3D electron microscopy equipment awarded to Brookes will enhance capabilities for tomography in Oxford further.


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