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Biology Prof's Groundbreaking Research Earns Prestigious Honor

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

Christopher JanetopoulosUniversity of the Sciences biology professor Christopher Janetopoulos, PhD, co-authored a groundbreaking study that has earned the 2014-15 Newcomb Cleveland Prize given by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This award will be presented to the authors at a ceremony, held on Friday, Feb. 12, during the 182nd AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Janetopoulos, a native of Bel Air, Maryland, worked alongside 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Dr. Eric Betzig and used a new type of 3D microscope to publish his findings in the study, “Lattice light-sheet microscopy: Imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution.” This paper was published in the AAAS journal, Science on Oct. 18, 2014.

This new lattice light sheet microscope—developed by the Betzig lab at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, allows researchers to image live cells and small organisms at high speed and resolution, while also not damaging the specimen.

In their study, Dr. Janetopoulos and the team of researchers illustrated the power of their approach using 20 distinct biological systems, including embryonic development in worms and flies as well as the dynamic movements of individual amoeba and ciliated protozoa. Because their approach causes less damage than traditional imaging and improves image acquisition speed, it expands the range of biological events that microscopes can investigate—holding broad implications for the field of biology.

cellsDr. Janetopoulos said there is no other microscope out there that allows scientists to obtain 3D images with this type of spatial and temporal resolution. To their amazement, he said they were able to obtain thousands of images of an individual cell without damaging or photo-bleaching the specimen. Recent unpublished work on this microscope supports his lab's new model on the role of two lipids in remodeling the cell's architecture and plays a critical role in cancer metastasis.

Since its development, lattice light-sheet microscopy has been used to image numerous important events, such as single transcription factor molecules binding to DNA, hotspots of transcription, microtubule instability, protein distributions in embryos, and much more. The microscope is available free of charge to outside users through the Advanced Imaging Center at Janelia.

Dr. Janetopoulos started his scientific career as a biology and premedical major at Augustana College in Illinois, then went on to earn his PhD in biology from Texas A&M University in 1999. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, where he began focusing his studies on cell polarity and cell migration.  His research laboratory at USciences also focuses on developing microfluidic devices for advanced microscopy of living cells and living multicellular organisms.

Continue reading: Under the Microscope—USciences Research Leads to Understanding Cells

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