Information Box Group
Our informatics suite is where experimental data is mined and where rigorous analysis is performed. The suite is home to high-powered computers that allow users to draw conclusions from acquired data and identify possible breakthroughs. The informatics space is collaborative by design and researchers from each SCC-RI laboratory utilize this area for data crunching and networking.
A molecular facility is fundamental to interrogating the functional state of cells. Here we analyze various components of cells, including DNA, RNA and protein. Importantly, we also engineer molecular tools to manipulate and understand the mechanisms of cellular processes. For instance, we can generate fluorescent protein fusions to track the location of proteins of interest in cells in real-time. Our capabilities in this area allow us to better understand the differences between normal and diseased cells.
David Braley Human Stem Cell Screening Facility
Identifying new compounds for the treatment of disease is the future of medicine. The SCC-RI has developed a platform technology to screen for the next generation of anti-cancer drugs. Here we test natural products, synthetics, and multiple well-established chemical libraries in a high-throughput and high-content manner using powerful robotic equipment. While our current platform has been focused on acute myeloid leukemia, we are in the process of expanding our disease targets to include other cancers such as brain, breast and colon. The platform is also being adapted for diseases beyond cancer, including autism, neuropathy and obesity.
Live Metabolic Analysis
Metabolism is implicated in numerous diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The Seahorse XFe96 Analyzer located at the SCC-RI allows our scientists to study metabolic function of live cells and organoids in real-time. The instrument measures mitochondrial function, glycolysis and fatty acid oxidation – the 3 major energy pathways utilized by cells. This metabolic platform can be easily integrated with drug screening as it permits high-throughput functional analysis of live cells.
Communication between brain cells (such as neurons) is essential for proper brain development and activity. Brain cells primarily communicate with other cells through electrical signals, which are created by changes in the ion concentrations inside and outside of the cell. Electrophysiology is a method that can be used to record and measure these signals, and track how they change as brain cells send or receive them. Electrophysiology encompasses a variety of different techniques that can be used to study different aspects of the cells – including maturity, health, and functionality – as well as the strength of communication between cells. While we use electrophysiology to study brain cells, it is also used to study other cell types, including cardiac. Altogether, electrophysiology allows us to measure dynamic changes in activity that cannot be seen through imaging and biochemical assays.
In Vivo Transplantation and Modelling Unit
Important to our translational efforts is the ability to create pre-clinical models of disease. These models are critical as they provide an in vivo system to study how new therapeutics behave physiologically. This intermediary stage is important; it allows us to validate our basic discoveries made at the cellular level before they can be tested in human clinical trials. Our current strengths are in modelling cancer. For example, our robust xenograft model has facilitated good translational strides in acute myeloid leukemia.
Tissue Culture Suite
At the heart of the SCC-RI’s research activities is our ability to grow and culture a variety of human cell types, including stem cells and various types of cancer cells. In this sophisticated space, our highly trained researchers grow the cellular materials required to interrogate important questions that advance our understanding of human diseases.
Microscopy and Imaging
At only 30 microns in width, the cells we study are invisible to the naked eye; by comparison, a strand of human hair is 6x that width. In order to visualize these cells we rely on microscopy and imaging technologies. SCC-RI researchers use these technologies every day to visualize human stem cells, blood cells, cancer cells, skin cells, neural cells, fat cells, and more. The SCC-RI has a variety of microscopes and imaging equipment, ranging from simple light microscopes used to examine cell cultures to instruments that record time lapse video of live cells, and high-powered confocal microscopes that provide crisp fluorescent images of single cells.
All cells are not equal. Cell lines, organs and tissues are comprised of many different cell types, each with important and distinct functions. Certain cells are believed to be drivers of disease; for example, specific sub-sets of cancer cells are implicated in the initiation and progression of the disease. To be able to isolate these important subsets of cell populations, we rely on the expertise and equipment in the McMaster’s core flow cytometry facility. Here, high-speed cell sorters are used to sort live populations of cells that can be investigated further. Routine marker analysis using the LSRII, is also performed.