RCSI and UCD share €1.47m award for super-resolution microscopes

15 May 2020

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RCSI and UCD have been jointly awarded a €1.47m SFI grant for highly advanced microscopy instruments.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and University College Dublin (UCD) will soon have access to powerful scientific instruments, in what has been described as an “exciting development for the Irish research community”.

It has been announced that the institutions will share a €1.47m Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Infrastructure Award. RCSI will receive €1.1m to develop a facility for highly advanced microscopy in Ireland and purchase two super-resolution microscopes that will be housed at the new facility.

The remaining funding will be used by UCD to receive a third instrument for correlative light and electron microscopy that will be located in the core microscopy facility in the UCD Conway Institute.

In normal light microscopy, the image resolution is limited by the wavelength of light. However, using super-resolution light microscopy, it is possible to combine a variety of scientific techniques that get past this limitation. This allows clearer pictures to be taken of objects that are nanometres in size, or 1m times smaller than a millimetre.

Nanoscale super-resolution image showing the hollow structure of microtubules in a blood platelet

Nanoscale super-resolution image showing the hollow structure of microtubules in a blood platelet. Image: RCSI

Pooling expertise

“For some scientific problems, you can’t solve them blindfolded,” said RCSI professor of chemistry Donal O’Shea.

“This grant from SFI will allow Irish researchers to make many new insights, especially in medical and material science applications. By having the equipment in both RCSI and UCD, this will allow the pooling of expertise between the two institutions.”

UCD’s Prof Dimitri Scholz added that this is “a very exciting development for the Irish research community”.

“Together, we will provide critical mass and expertise in a leading imaging technology that can respond to the challenges of world-class biomedical research,” he said.

Elsewhere, RCSI researchers recently announced that they found Irish patients with severe cases of Covid-19 are experiencing abnormal blood clotting which, in some cases, has led to deaths. The researchers are now calling for further studies to investigate whether blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients to reduce clotting and help them recover from Covid-19.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic