Shared Resource: Light Microscopy Core Facility

January 10, 2015
By: William Alexander, Writer, DCI

Sam Johnson, PhD, and his team, Yasheng Gao, PhD, and Ben Carlson, PhD, pose in the Research Park II lab. The trio is available for consultation and LMCF training.The Light Microscopy Core Facility (LMCF) is a shared resource providing access to microscopy and image analysis resources. The LMCF contains more than 25 imaging and analysis systems, and is spread over locations in the Levine Science Research Center, French Family Science Center, Nanaline Duke Building and Research Park II.

With equipment from high-end confocal microscopes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to basic fluorescence microscopes, the LMCF offers effective, convenient, assisted and affordable microscopy services to all Duke faculty, staff and students.

The LMCF staff work with users to make sure that everybody gets the most out of their time in the facility, whether they are experts in microscopy or have never touched a microscope before in their lives.

“Microscopy is an essential technique in a wide variety of basic research, but the costly machines needed to perform this research are generally beyond the budgets of most labs,” said Sam Johnson, PhD, director of the LMCF. “We are here to help people however we can, from showing them how to use the equipment, advising on how to design an experiment, which reagents and methods to use, troubleshooting, to the quantitative analysis and visualization of the images.”

Johnson, who has directed LMCF since its foundation in 2008, works with two other staff members, Yasheng Gao, PhD, and Ben Carlson, PhD, to maintain the facility and assist users. In addition to offering training and technical support to individuals, Johnson also teaches courses, from one-morning and one-week introductory classes to full-semester courses in microscope and image processing.

The LMCF receives, on average, about 700 users from about 200 labs each year, with about half of those users coming from the DCI. Since it began its operation, more than 1700 users have spent over 140,000 hours in the facility. Over the past five years, the LCMF has been an essential part of research in studies from trials of new therapies for breast cancer to finding new biomarkers for prostate cancer.

One of the LMCF’s frequent users is Jason Somarelli, PhD, a Senior Research Associate studying genitourinary cancers within the School of Medicine. Somarelli, whose research focuses on metastasis, was able to use the LMCF’s time-lapse microscopy and single-cell time lapse imaging capabilities to examine how cancer cells change and begin migrating from tumor sites to spread throughout the body.

“The LMCF has been extremely helpful for my research,” Somarelli said. “I spent a lot of time with Sam and Ben, who do a fantastic job at facilitating proper use of often-complicated microscopy equipment, and they advise on all steps of the experiment, from assay design through image acquisition and data analysis. This hands-on approach is instrumental in providing quality service to both novice and expert microscopists.”

Duke researchers can sign up to use any equipment within the LMCF. The facility receives funding from the DCI, the School of Medicine, the Office of the Provost, and other sources, it also recovers some of its direct cost through user fees. Prices for use range from $5 to $42 an hour, with discounts for bulk use.

To learn more about the LMCF visit the facility’s website.  New users can request training and assistance with this web form. To access the PDF version of the poster below, click on the link or image below.

LMCFposter