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Utilizing Laser Microdissection Techniques To Advance Diabetes Research

By Michael Distler, diss72003@ufl.edu

The diabetes research team at the University of Florida Diabetes Center of Excellence has been beta testing the Leica LMD7000 Laser Microdissection System, which the center believes will help advance biomedical research. Leica, a global provider in the development of optical microscopes, has its headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany but operates out of more than 100 countries. At present, there are only two other known locations for the Leica LMD7000 microscopes within the state of Florida, and only a handful of lasers are in existence in the Southeast United States according to scienceexchange.com. The Leica laser microdissection system has a variety of uses in both clinical and research pathology, but at present researchers are intending to focus their use of this microscope to benefit the research being done for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation funded Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes(nPOD). However, the center has several investigators, includingPatrick Rowe, Ph.D., who at present, is tapping into the offerings of a similar laser system currently being shared at the health sciences campus. The Zeiss PALM MicroBeam Laser is used to capture insulin-producing cells in order to determine if they are dysfunctional in individuals without diabetes but exhibiting early signs of autoimmunity. Dr. Rowe currently uses the Zeiss PALM Microbeam Laser Microdissection System, but notes that that the Leica laser is an equally valuable tool in their research.

Lead investigator of the nPOD Pathology Core  Dr. Martha Campbell-Thompson, D.V.M. Ph.D., noted that because of the extent of research taking place at the DCE, she hopes to add a comparable laser system permanently in the near future with the goal of advancing new focused research with Co-Director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence Dr. Mark Atkinson, Ph.D. The laser approach is designed to provide an inexpensive method for studying specific cells within tissues, with the intent of unlocking more insights into a possible cure for type one diabetes as well as eventually provide solutions for better prevention from type two diabetes. Each laser system typically costs around $250,000.

The nPOD Pathology Core holds human biobanking activities, where specific cell types are taken from all types of donors, including donors without diabetes, those with preclinical stages of diabetes, and people who have type one or type two diabetes on either a short or long term basis. The nPOD Pathology Core has around 200 current donors with more than 24,000 samples to choose from for use with this new device. The Leica LMD7000 system provides for the ability to closely examine and dissect fresh frozen human cells and tissues, with hopes that this new technology will show researchers how these immune cells and their molecules function in an autoimmune attack to insulin-producing cells, an essential facet of the diabetes disease state.