MIPS acquires unique microscope

MIPS acquires unique microscope

The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science (MIPS) is now home to another world-leading piece of research infrastructure in the form of a Leica SP8 CARS, FLIM and FCS microscope.

This makes MIPS the only research facility in Australia with a turn-key CARS system, and the first in the world with Leica’s new FALCCON FLIM technology.

The microscope has been obtained through the ARC LIEF program, a collaborative project with researchers at the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology.

The Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) microscopy is a label-free method that enables imaging by displaying the characteristic intrinsic vibrational contrast of a structure’s molecules. The key advantage of this process is that it allows for the sample to remain mostly unaffected. Researchers can therefore minimise sample preparation work, and it improves the speed and resolution of 3D imaging.

FALCCON is Leica’s proprietary Fluorescence-Imaging Lifetime Microscopy (FLIM) system. FLIM reduces the traditionally slow measurement process of the lifetime of dyes (usually in nano seconds). Traditional FLIM systems capture data in 30 seconds per image; the FALCCON system can capture data in 30 images per second, previously not possible.

Cameron Nowell, Head of Imaging, FACS and Analysis Core at MIPS, says the new microscope system is an exciting development, and encourages partners to move quickly to take advantage of it. “Australian researchers have had access to CARS microscopes before,” says Nowell, “but they’ve usually been custom-made and limited in their application. This new system is in a whole other league in terms of its accessibility and breadth of application.”

One of the key potential areas in which it can be employed is in quality assurance and quality control. Nowell gives the example of food manufacturing. “CARS provides a reliable way to do fast and accurate quality assurance. Because it’s non-invasive, there’s no need to spend time injecting dyes. And you get denser, more accurate data because of the higher frame rate.”

Professor Chris Porter, Director of MIPS, says that this latest investment further underlines Monash’s commitment to excellence in biomedical research.

“This new piece of infrastructure opens new possibilities for research in drug discovery and development here at MIPS, and also more broadly in the biomedical sciences through our partners and collaborators,” says Porter. “The potential is extremely exciting.”