Microscope arrives to thunderous applause

Posted: 18th November 2021

PhD student Vanessa Tsui has this year welcomed the addition of a new piece of technology to SVI’s research toolkit – the Leica Thunder Imager – thanks to philanthropic support from The Ian Potter Foundation and SVI’s Catalyst Circle.

“It’s a very futuristic name for our new high-performance microscope, which has contributed hugely to my PhD research,” says Vanessa.

With a project focused on understanding the role of DNA repair pathways in reproductive processes, Vanessa keenly employed the new microscope to visualise cells undergoing meiosis – a special type of cell division that produces sperm or eggs. The Thunder Imager allowed her to view thousands of cells in meiosis, whereas previous efforts to image only 30 cells took half a day.

“During meiosis, cells with two sets of chromosomes divide to produce four cells rather than the usual two – each containing a single set of chromosomes,” Vanessa explains. “At conception, each parent contributes one set of chromosomes to the new individual. This is why siblings from the same parents develop different characteristics.”

But when meiosis goes awry, it can lead to infertility and chromosomal abnormalities in the next generation, such as Down syndrome.

Vanessa’s supervisor, Associate Professor Wayne Crismani, affirms the microscope is the fastest and most powerful SVI has ever had – and will make a real difference to a wide range of research.

“My team is also using the Imager in our search for new treatments for the hardest-to-treat breast cancers,” says Wayne. “Others are using it for heart disease research, and to assist innovative regenerative approaches to wound-healing.”

“Working with molecules is often very abstract. Having access to technology that can visualise proteins at such fine scale provides a means to check and support our findings that isn’t possible with more conventional equipment.”

Director Tom Kay comments: “Our goal at SVI is to give our researchers every advantage they need to push the boundaries of medical research. Our donors are critical to our ability to do this, and we are enormously grateful to everyone who has contributed to the new insight that the Thunder Imager will inevitably bring. "

SVI acknowledges The Ian Potter Foundation and the Catalyst Circle of donors – led by Rhonda Barro and Marg Lodge – for providing funding to enable purchase of the Leica Thunder Imager.