For October 2020’s BYOBio & Tech Beer, VBSA and VtTA members needed popcorn to go with the titular beer for Max Ranall’s virtual presentation of ‘Quantitative Imaging in the Life Sciences - Max’s High Mag Movie Hour’.
Ranall is a BioTek Field Application Scientist based in the Bay Area. He assists scientists in collecting imaging data using BioTek equipment and has compiled his own collection of visually stunning research movies. For BYOBio & Tech beer he shared a few of his favorites.
First, Ranall explained that he usually uses transmitted light microscopy or inverted fluorescence microscopy, with a quick diagram showing the inner workings of the Lionheart FX system. Ranall showed both types of microscopy movies over the course of the evening.
From there he jumped into the movie screening, starting with a brightfield time lapse of a wound healing model. In this model, cells of an immortal lung epithelial line were cultured on plastic petri dishes with removable barriers. Once the cells had adhered and proliferated, the barriers were removed, leaving narrow gaps – the “wounds”. The movie tracked the movement of cells on either side of the gaps as they extended pseudopodia and scooted into the open space, closing the wounds. This wound healing model combined with BioTek’s imaging capabilities allows researchers to quantify the speed and movement strategy of cells closing wounds under different conditions, such as after the introduction of a new drug.
Ranall moved on to a clip of cultured RPE cells tagged with red mCherry fluorescent protein that was fused to Histone 2B to reveal their nuclei and illuminate their chromosome dynamics. The cells were imaged every five minutes for four hours. The video showed constellations of bright red ovoids jiggling through black space, demonstrating just how mobile these cells can be.
Next Ranall pulled up another brightfield time lapse, this time showing an Aspergillus spore infection model during germination. Aspergillus are mold fungi that commonly grow on the surfaces of their substrates and often spread through spores. The video began with a field of small, transparent sphere-shaped spores that quickly grew long, transparent thread-like hyphae running every which way, even out of the plane of focus.
The movie screening was followed by a lively conversation about the different challenges associated with microscopy imaging. Ranall’s movies of fluorescent-tagged cells showed samples being imaged over extended periods of time, so viewers wondered if fluorophore bleaching was a concern. He explained that the BioTek software allowed operators to automatically compensate through a couple different strategies, from turning down the power to the excitatory LED to turning up the gain on the camera.
The conversation ended with a discussion on how rates of colorblindness affect the presentation of imaging data. Bright reds and greens have commonly been used in microscopy for achieving high-contrast labeled images, but with 11% of men experiencing some red-green colorblindness, some researchers have argued that these aren’t the best colors to use when communicating science to the general public.
Keep an eye out for more bioscience talks led by the VBSA! Future dates and details will be posted on our events page.