NeuroTechnology Studio Offers New Resource to Neuroscience Researchers

To speed innovation, a new NeuroTechnology Studio at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) now offers investigators access to advanced instrumentation, tools and expert support.

The goal of the NeuroTechnology Studio is to leverage advances in a range of technologies including microscopy, cell sorting and informatics to speed research and drive new understanding of brain function and of mechanisms underlying nervous system disorders. The Studio’s first two instruments for advanced imaging are installed and in use: a GE IN Cell Analyzer 2200 (a widefield high-content imaging system) and a Zeiss LSM880 + AiryScan confocal/super-resolution microscope.

These powerful instruments enable researchers to analyze images with superior resolution and higher throughput, to answer essential biological questions and thereby gain clinical insights more quickly. A key benefit of the studio comes via staff scientists and technicians who are being hired to help investigators optimize the technology, ensure quality of the emerging data, and assist with data interpretation.

“For researchers to know exactly what new machines, tools, and resources are available and who to talk to is priceless,” says Ulf Dettmer, PhD, a researcher in the Department of Neurology at BWH. Dr. Dettmer is studying cultured nerve cells to monitor the aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein, a key process in Parkinson’s disease. The formation of these aggregates can be visualized with fluorescent probes. Using the IN Cell, Dettmer has analyzed up to 12 plates (each with 384 wells) in a single day – enabling his lab to screen more than 3,000 compounds for novel modifiers of Parkinson’s disease pathology.

“For many questions, the tedious image acquisition by a scientist sitting at a microscope all day has become unnecessary. The IN Cell Analyzer can get you high-quality data much faster and more error-free,” he adds. “Plus, the machine is of course totally unbiased — another big advantage.”

The NeuroTechnology Studio is part of the BWH Program for Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (PIN), directed by Martin A. Samuels, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurology. The Studio was made possible by philanthropic contributions.

“We’re bringing in technology that otherwise might be too big, too complicated or too expensive for acquisition in a single laboratory. And we’re casting a broad net for its use,” says Charles Jennings, PhD, executive director of PIN. “We hope to share resources to bring people together — to unite researchers across the hospital.”

The NeuroTechnology Studio is open to any BWH researcher involved in neuroscience research. Investigators in neurology, psychiatry, pathology and neurosurgery have used the NeuroTechnology Studio so far, with others planning to use it soon.

The Zeiss LSM880 + AiryScan confocal/super-resolution microscope is what Lai Ding, PhD, the Studio’s senior imaging scientist, calls the “flagship” for the NeuroTechnology Studio. It offers high sensitivity, enhanced resolution in x, y and z, and high image-acquisition speed in one system. It also supports long term live cell imaging experiments.

The Studio is being developed over the next three to four years. “One year in, it’s been a great success,” says Dr. Samuels. “It brings resources to the table.”