UNSW set to become home to world’s first pre-production prototype of high resolution microscope

Cancer researchers in NSW will now have access to a range of cutting edge technology, including a world-first super-resolution microscope at UNSW, thanks a $4 million investment by the Cancer Institute NSW. These new technologies will change the way researchers view cancer cells and how they interact in the body, giving insights that will enable researchers to develop new cures and treatments for people with cancer in NSW and around the world.

NSW is set to become home to the world’s first pre-production prototype of the Single-objective selective plan illumination microscope (soSPIM). This novel technology further builds upon the Nobel Prize-winning super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to allow researchers to obtain ultrafast and super-resolved images of cancer cells in their natural environment, opening the way for the development of new drugs.

NSW Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow, said:

NSW is home to some of the best cancer researchers in the world and it is vital that they have access to the most innovative, new research technologies that will help them accelerate their research discoveries into new treatments for people with cancer.

Particularly exciting is the arrival of the soSPIM at UNSW. This microscope will be the first of its kind in the world, outside the original prototypes in the labs of its creators, which highlights how highly regarded NSW is in the global research community.

The $4 million of funding through the Cancer Institute NSW Research Equipment Grants program will also fund the southern hemisphere’s first Chromium Platform, located at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, which will allow researchers to detect large genomic structural rearrangements that are missed by conventional sequencing technologies. The discovery and characterisation of these genomic alterations will open up previously unexplored diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities.

In Australia, it is currently not possible to repeat in small animal models the principal stages of targeted radiotherapy treatment used in patients. Australia’s first cone beam computed tomography (CBCT)-guided focal irradiator will be installed at University of Sydney and will allow researchers to perform pre-clinical trials of radiotherapy in combination with novel therapies like immunotherapy.

Another Australian first is the installation of the Fast Field Cycling nuclear magnetic resonance (FFC NMR) relaxometer at Western Sydney University. This technology will allow researchers to design next generation contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This will enable clearer and more information rich MRIs to improve the early detection of cancers.

The ANZAC Research Institute will receive a high speed, multichannel fluorescence intravital video microscopy system, which allows the imaging of biological processes such as interactions between immune cells and cancer cells in live animals.

UNSW will receive the latest generation mass spectrometer, an Orbitrap Fusion Lumos mass spectrometer, suitable for undertaking a large array of innovative cancer research. The team at UNSW will use the technology to investigate treatments for leukaemia, non small cell lung cancer, brain cancer, neuroblastoma and pancreatic cancer.

Also included in the funding are an Orbitrap Fusion Lumos mass spectrometer and a super-resolution light microscope for UNSW, as well as a ZEISS LSM 800 Confocal Microscope for the University of Sydney.

Professor Currow explained that these grants further promote collaboration in the NSW cancer research sector. “Collaboration is key to driving advancements in cancer research and to this end we have ensured that these technologies will be made available for the use of researchers across the State,” he said.

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