Cell sorter valuable addition
By John Gibb
A state-of-the-art cell sorting machine at the University of Otago is likely to produce key insights in the fight against cancer, tuberculosis and influenza, scientists say.
The $600,000 machine is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and researchers say it will usher in a new era of cell biology at the university.
The high-speed computerised device will enable researchers to isolate cell types from complex biological mixtures, separating 70,000 individual cells per second, with 99.9% purity. Lasers are used to identify microscopic fluorescent markers on individual cells during the sorting process.
The machine would help improve vaccines, help prevent the development of tumors and ameliorate diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, researchers said.
Selecting certain rare cells from blood or tissue had previously not been feasible on campus, or had taken many hours, using earlier equipment.
Immunologist Associate Prof Glenn Buchan said efforts to obtain the sophisticated device had been “long and exhausting” and the machine’s recent arrival meant “a very exciting time” for researchers involved.
The equipment’s greatest potential was in purifying blood cells crucial to the immune response to disease, Prof Buchan said.
The university funded the sorter, as part of its support for Immunet, one of the university’s recognised areas of research strength, he said.
Prof Buchan is the facilitator of the grouping of more than 70 New Zealand immunologists, which aims to improve the treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.
PHOTO: JANE DAWBER
Way of the future . . . Celebrating the arrival of a high-speed cell sorting machine are (at front) University of Otago microbiologist Dr Alex McLellan, and (at rear) fellow microbiologists Associate Prof Glenn Buchan and Dr Margaret Baird, and (centre) Dr Paul Hessian, a research fellow in physiology. — ODT April 03, 2004