Remote Imaging Services Now Available in Maine

Maine INBRE’s Research Resources Manager – Dr. Frédéric Bonnet – has made significant effort over the past two years to develop the Light Microscopy Facility (LMF) at the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) into a state-of-the-art facility that is accessible to all INBRE partner institutions.

“Now we have a better scheduling and communication system, a better physical environment in which to work, and the technology has been optimized for multiple users,” says Bonnet. Highlights include:

  • the Light Microscopy Remote Interaction Program – access to the sophisticated technology and expert staff at the LMF without the need to travel and to be on site
  • microscope upgrades and purchases, software acquisition, and facility renovations
  • development of a new user-friendly booking system allowing for easy communication between the users
  • an efficient and structured training program
  • monthly microscopy user meetings to share our experiences with microscopy and best practices for image presentation and methods documentation

The most significant and valuable addition to the MDIBL LMF is the 2020 acquisition of a new Zeiss LSM980 confocal microscope equipped with Airyscan and a two-photon laser, which provides cell level resolution and allows for spectral mixing. This is the first such instrument in Maine.

This C. elegans image, produced by Hannah Somers, used the LMF’s Zeiss conofocal microscope and was highlighted in the NIH Biomedical Beat blog earlier in the year. Here, a ribosomal protein is glowing red and muscle fibers are glowing green.

While the additional of such a valuable piece of technology would usually see a flurry of excited activity, the global pandemic sent Dr. Bonnet back into planning mode – this time to work out how to develop the remote capacity of the LMF. The idea: a sample is sent to Bonnet, and he images it while connected to the research scientist over a video interface like Zoom. Bonnet wants researchers to eventually see him as a natural extension of their work, even if they’re not doing the imaging themselves.

Hannah Somers also produced this image of a fluorescent C. elegans worm using a Nikon Spinning Disk in the LMF – the muscles are in yellow and ribosomes purple.

This program has been piloted by several researchers, including INBRE project leader Dr. Timothy Breton, an assistant professor of biology at University of Maine at Farmington, who recently published his work using the images in Scientific Reports. Breton says: “My INBRE-funded project at the University of Maine at Farmington requires detailed microscopy images of gonadal structures in fish, but we do not have the equipment or expertise at our institution to meet these needs.  In addition, relevant facilities in Maine are not close to us, which make obtaining such images difficult.  The microscopy remote interaction program has solved our imaging issues by allowing our smaller campus to both use these resources from a distance and leverage expertise made available by the Light Microscopy Core.”

For scientists without easy access to this type of technology in Maine, the remote program will have benefits extending beyond the COVID-19 pandemic; it breaks down geographic obstacles and offers a cost-effective option for researchers who don’t have their own microscope.

Follow the LMF on twitter: @ MDIBL_LMF