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Scope 64 - The private life of cells: seeing the big picture

31 October 2017

Getting up close and personal with cells is a complicated task. Are the cells doing what we want them to do, when we want them to do it?

Many microscopic viewing techniques only let scientists peek at cells through very small windows of time. This makes it hard to get the full picture of what’s going on in a cell’s day-to-day life.

The IncuCyte S3, a recent addition to the Hugh Green Cytometry Core, is prying open this window and shedding new light on the private life of cells. Whereas most microscopes only offer a small snapshot in time, the IncuCyte S3 lets researchers observe individual cells for weeks, even months – spying on them as they carry out their functions, intended or otherwise. 

This technology lets scientists like the Institute’s senior research officer Astrid Authier look at whether our immune cells are correctly identifying and killing cells loaded with u-specific peptides in the way we expect them to.

“It’s the ultimate goal in terms of showing that the cells you’re using are functionally capable of killing infected cells, which you can’t see with other microscopic techniques,” says Astrid. “With the IncuCyte S3 you can see the actual cells interact with each other in real time.

“This gives us an idea of how these cells function in real life. Eventually we’ll expand it to look at cancer peptides and see if we can get cancer-specific cells to kill cancer cells in the same way.”