The Little Eye

A Point of View on Microscopy Research, the History of the Microscope and a hint of Interdisciplinary Academia

My aim with this blog is to share with others some of my interests, mainly in microscopy and bioimaging. You can expect to see a few different styles of posts as detailed in  Welcome to The Little Eye.

Why “The Little Eye”?

I’ve taken the name The Little Eye from Galileo Galilei who coined his early compound microscopes: "Occhiolino", Italian for 'little eye'. The term 'microscope' was coined by Giovanni Faber, a contempory of Galileo, and comes from the Greek words for 'small' and 'to look at', intended to be analogous to 'telescope' (see Welcome to The Little Eye).

Imaging the Beating Heart in Zebrafish

2018 has been a busy year so far (and I expect it will stay that way) but I’ve finally made time to write another blog post (and also to move my blog into my personal website). Given that so far this year I’ve spoken about my current research – imaging the beating zebrafish heart – to audiences of academics, the public & students I thought it was about time to do a blog post summarising said research. Hopefully this short post will provide you with an idea of what we’re trying to achieve, why and how we’re going about it (although I’ve kept off too much detail for now).

The Challenge of a Beating Heart

Here at the University of Glasgow I am working with Dr Jonathan Taylor on techniques for imaging the living, beating heart in zebrafish. This work is part of a British Heart Foundation funded collaboration between us and a team of biologists at the University of Edinburgh. Our collaborators are interested in quantifying how the heart responds to injury, which in turn can be used to develop drugs that improve the natural injury response. Eventually, the fundamental research being carried out in the zebrafish can be translated to other model organisms and may, after much validation, be trialled in humans. At a conference I attended earlier in the year, one speaker gave the (uncited) statistic that 22 out of 24 drugs developed in the zebrafish have been successfully translated to humans despite the differences between a fish heart and a human heart.

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Better Imaging of Living Animals and the 3Rs

Recently, I was explaining my research to another academic from a different field. I was describing how, when imaging living animals under the microscope, we strive to keep laser power levels to the minimum needed. The question I got in return was: “Is that for the animal’s sake or for the imaging?”. And of course the answer is both – in general, I find that good science and better microscopy align very well with performing more humane animal research.

This article is about how researchers are working to improve animal research by minimising numbers used, sharing animals and data and refining experimental procedures.  This is not an article on whether or not animal experimentation should or should not be done; that is a matter of personal ethics. However, should you be interested in the rules and regulations surrounding animal research in the UK, I would suggest you start with Understanding Animal Research [1] and the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (the NC3RS) [2].

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Standing up for Science

Today I attended the Sense about Science [1] media workshop: Standing up for Science [2]. The day is run as part of their Voice of Young Science network [3] and aims to help early career scientists launch themselves into the rather intimidating field of media engagement.

The workshop itself was a really interesting day so thanks to Chris Peters and Ana Skamarauskas for organising and chairing through the day. It was primarily composed of three very interactive panels: scientists who have communicated with the media, journalists who work in STEM-related media, and the ‘nuts and bolts’ panel.

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Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723): The Father of Microbiology

Antony van Leeuwenhoek is one of the most well known figures in the history of microscopy. He is particularly known for two achievements: his single-lens microscopes, the best of which was able to resolve objects down to 1 micrometre (a thousandth of a millimetre), and being the first human to explore the microcosm – the world of single-cell organisms such as algae and bacteria. It is for the latter that he is often ascribed the sobriquet of ‘The Father of Microbiology’.

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Let There be Light… but Not Too Much… Phototoxicity in Microscopy

Light is an Essential Aspect of Microscopy

An essential aspect to microscopy is light. Early microscopes used ambient light or used mirrors to reflect light, either from the sun or a candle, onto the sample of interest. With the inventions [1] of the electric light bulb additional, artificial light sources could be used and the light from lamps could be focussed onto samples with much greater control.

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The Future of UK Life Sciences – The Importance of Bioimaging

Last month the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, which scrutinises Government policy relating to science and technology, announced an inquiry into the future of UK life sciences [1]. This is off the back of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper [2] and aims to investigate, amongst other things, whether or not the Government has the infrastructure to support an innovative life sciences sector in the UK.

As somebody with a passion for bioimaging I thought I might stress the importance of bioimaging and similar supporting technologies. Without technologies such as bioimaging and next generation sequencing, the UK biosciences and bioeconomy would not be the innovative and world-class scene that it is. So, here it is, my two pence worth.

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Microscopes on Your Mobile Phone

Many modern microscopes can be large, highly technical and expensive pieces of equipment. This is most evidenced when you consider that, when funding such equipment at UK universities and research institutes, many funding bodies stipulate a requirement for sharing across multiple research groups or institutes. However, as developers of new microscopy technology a focus on such fancy and costly microscopes should not be at the detriment of the continued research into miniaturisation, cheaper manufacturing and improved transportable microscopes.

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“God bless the Microscope: let us have a Society” – A Very Brief History of the Royal Microscopical Society #1

A quick note: the title of this post is perhaps a bit false – this post will actually only give a brief history of the founding of the Microscopical Society of London. The Microscopical Society of London was the original name of what is now known as the Royal Microscopical Society. I hope to do a number of posts about the society, which is a very important learned society founded to promote,

microscopical investigation, and for the introduction and improvement of the Microscope as a scientific instrument [1].

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The History of Microscopy – An Interactive Timeline

So this week I want to introduce a new project I’m starting: an interactive timeline of the history of microscopy. The idea behind this is to slowly build up an educational resource that documents key events and people in the history of microscopy. Eventually this timeline will go from the first compound microscopes, through electron and fluorescence microscopy and right up to modern techniques such as lightsheet and super-resolution.

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Technology Touching Life – Multidisciplinary UK Research and Innovation?

This Tuesday (the 20th June 2017) I attended a workshop on the new Technology Touching Life scheme being run by three of the UK’s research councils [1]. The workshops (this was the last of three) were run jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Reseasrch Council (EPSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to foster multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary networks and better integrate such research into the often disciplinary nature of the research councils.

Given the current changes in the research council structure, and the regularly recognised important of multidisciplinary research at this interface, can we expect to see a change in how the councils work together for better multidisciplinary research across the UK?

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