Visually observing immune responses in living tissue

Thursday, 22 November, 2007

The Centenary Institute, one of Australia ’s leading medical research institutes, has unveiled a microscope more powerful than any other in the country.

Designed and built by German company LaVision BioTec, the multiphoton microscope and its array sit on a specialised table about the size of a single mattress. It uses dual laser beams to view the sample, allowing scientists to observe fast-moving objects and dynamic processes in living tissue. The lasers have also been enhanced to produce longer wavelengths, enabling researchers to observe objects in tissue up to 0.5 mm thick.

The institute has acquired the microscope to observe in vivo imaging of immune responses, allowing researchers to view and study the behaviour of cells in living tissues in real time.

“This type of microscope is an outstanding tool to study how our bodies fight cancer both in early and advanced stages,” said Prof Wolfgang Weninger, who will lead a team of researchers to study the immune response to cancer and infectious diseases.

Using the multiphoton microscope, Weninger and his colleagues have already developed real-time videos of T-cells invading and destroying cancer cells in living tissue.

“Cancer is still a leading cause of death in Australia. There is a need to develop improved anti-cancer therapies based on the use of the body ’s own resources — namely our immune system.

“If we can learn more about how our immune system attacks cancer cells directly in the context of intact tissues, we hope to develop improved immuno-therapies.”

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