Central Michigan University students and faculty who conduct research in genetics, neuroscience or biology in labs across campus now have one more tool to advance their studies.

The Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope — a $450,000 microscope unit paired with a high-tech computer — provides not only better precision but also more opportunities for exploration.

“We’re able to pose research questions that we couldn’t even ask in the past,” said CMU biology graduate student Rachel Grattan of Alpena. “It’s very exciting to have access to this equipment.”

The upgraded features of the microscope, which was purchased with a National Science Foundation grant, now allow for live cell analysis, which is necessary to continue ongoing research for students and faculty who use live organisms such as worms and shrimp.

One such study involving worms to understand fertility problems in older women has been ongoing for several years at CMU. Now, with the new microscope, researchers can see the dynamic changes that occur among proteins in aging eggs belonging to the worms, which likely will help accelerate their research findings.

“The microscope is very hands-on,” said Jenna Plude, a CMU junior majoring in biomedical sciences. “This equipment really allows us to conduct in-depth research and take it to the next level.”

In another project, students use fluorescent probes to study DNA and proteins in shrimp embryos, which can be better viewed with the new microscope. One goal of this research is to cause sterility in shrimp, which is greatly needed by the aquaculture industry to protect their investment in improved strains of shrimp.

“This new equipment is already making a difference in our research,” said CMU biology professor Jennifer Schisa. “It means new opportunities for both faculty and students, which equates to increased research productivity and enhanced student training.”

More at www.cmich.edu.

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