FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT
Sidebar: Are oceans becoming acidic?
LOST LEWIS AND CLARK
Sidebar: Neurons get their close-up
Sidebar: Core facility models molecules
A HAZARDOUS WORLD
Sidebar: Genes, the environment and you
Cover: An illustration of UM's Main Hall tower bathed in the glow of a fictitious smoldering Earth.
Vision is published annually by The University of Montana Office of the Vice President for Research and Development and University Relations. It is printed by UM Printing & Graphic Services.
PUBLISHER: Daniel J. Dwyer. MANAGING EDITOR AND GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Cary Shimek. PHOTOGRAPHER: Todd Goodrich. CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Brianne Burrowes, Brenda Day, Judy Fredenberg, Joan Melcher, Rita Munzenrider, Patia Stephens and Alex Strickland. WEB DESIGN: Patia Stephens. EDITORIAL OFFICE: University Relations, Brantly Hall 330, Missoula, MT 59812, 406-243-5914. MANAGEMENT: Judy Fredenberg, Office of the Vice President for Research and Development, 116 Main Hall, Missoula, MT 59812, 406-243-6670.
get their close-up
Researchers in UM’s Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience are imaging brain cells in new and innovative ways. Professor Mike Kavanaugh says technical innovations in microscopy allow scientists to do things that were previously not possible. Many of these techniques involve taking snapshots of neurons using different types of fluorescent molecules.
“For example, we can optically record the electrical activity that’s going on with neurons over time using fluorescent dyes that are voltage sensitive,” he says. “It’s a powerful tool. With laser-scanning microscopy we can record images of neurons at higher levels of structural resolution than ever before.”
Kavanaugh says center investigators also have learned to use viruses to deliver fluorescent molecules into mouse brains. The leader in this effort is Professor Dave Poulsen, who crafts the viruses and will direct a “viral vector core” in the new Skaggs Building addition.
One result is a fantastic image from the brain of a three-week-old mouse in which neurons stained with a fluorescent marker show up red, and cells infected with a virus are green. The virus was injected when the mouse was a day old and only the size of a fingertip.
Pointing at his computer screen, Kavanaugh says, “This shows us how far neurons have migrated from the subventricular zone, a place deep in the mid-brain where the virus was injected. In young animals, including humans, neural stem cells are born in this zone. These images reveal how these neural progenitors migrate throughout the brain during development.”
Only a few researchers in the country use viruses to image in this way. “It’s cutting-edge research,” he says. “It’s exciting because it shows we will be able to deliver other types of genes to the brain, both for research purposes and potentially for therapeutic purposes.”
Kavanaugh says they soon be able to use viruses to deliver proteins that optically detect neurotransmitters such as glutamate in order to image the synaptic activity of neurons in real time. The brightness of light signals will change depending on whether a cell is active or inactive.
recently purchased an ultrasensitive high-speed imaging system that will
allow researchers to record this activity, which they hope will provide
new insights into pathological processes in the brain such as stroke and
epilepsy. The new equipment was purchased with a grant from the M.J. Murdock