Raghu Parthasarathy will lead the new efforts at the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology to use advanced light sheet microscopy to study the dynamics of host-microbe community establishment in fish. Light sheet microscopy allows researchers to actually see the formation of microbial communities residing within the gastrointestinal tracts of living hosts. This type of microscopy is unique in its ability to provide high-resolution 3-D images while limiting the exposure of the sample, in this case a living fish, to the lasers used to generate the image. These lasers can damage the tissues being examined or disrupt the cells involved, thereby altering the establishment of the microbial community.
In addition to light sheet microscopy, fluorescent stereomicroscopy will also play an important role in achieving the goals of the META Center. Much of the work will involve researchers introducing specific genetic changes into fish and then looking at how those changes affect host-microbe interactions. These genetic changes are introduced in fish embryos, but the effects are observed later in development. Fluorescent stereomicroscopy is required to identify and characterize fish that have had their genetic code altered by researchers.
Both the light sheet microscopy and the stereomicroscopy efforts of center scientists are being made possible through a $475,000 grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust.