Scoping out a new device

Douglas M. Kafury

University purchases new microscope for biomedical research

The chemistry department recently purchased a rare, new microscope that will aid researchers in finding information about cancer and liquid crystals.

The Confocal Raman Microscope can provide spatially resolved, three-dimensional structural information about a broad range of samples, ranging from living cells to liquid crystals, said Arne Gericke, assistant professor in the chemistry department.

The Raman technology is relatively new, so it is also rare. The microscope the university received is the first microscope of its kind to be delivered to the United States, Gericke said.

Gericke focuses on biomedical research and will use the new technology to look at cancerous tissue before and after photodynamic therapy, or cancer therapy.

“In conjunction with the ion microscope that we have, we will be able to better characterize these tissue samples,” Gericke said. “The goals would be the typing of cancer and what kind of cancer we are looking at, what are the boundaries of the tumor and what is the impact of the photodynamic therapy on the tissue morphology.”

Each microscope serves a special function, so the Confocal Raman Microscope can provide information that other microscopes can’t.

The microscope also allows researchers to look at chemical information in a nondestructive way by not having to use dyes for samples, according to Nanoscience.com.

The price of the microscope was more than $200,000 and was funded through congressionally allocated funds for cell systems research and the Wright Capital Project Fund award, which provides the chemistry department with money for new technologies, Gericke said.

The microscope will be placed in Gericke’s laboratory on the first floor of the Science Research Building when it is set up in the middle of February.

The microscope will mainly be used for research by graduate and undergraduate students.

“The chemistry department has a very active undergraduate research program, and, as part of that, students will work directly in my lab, and students will use the instrument as they use other instruments in the building,” Gericke said.

Chemistry graduate student Ke Zhang works with the Liquid Crystal Institute and studies the way liquid crystals react at different temperatures. Zhang said it is difficult to see what is happening inside the liquid crystals when they are reacting to the different temperatures with the current microscopes, but the Confocal Raman Microscope will help her see what is happening more clearly.

“If you use infrared microscopy, the particle would be blurry, and you cannot define where it is,” Zhang said. “In Raman microscopy, I can know where the particle is. I can see how they behave.”

Gericke said the instrument fulfills an important need, so he expects an immediate impact of the research.

“It will make us, as a community here at Kent (State), more competitive to obtain funding from federal agencies,” Gericke said.

Contact science reporter Douglas Kafury at [email protected]du.