Light Sheet Microscopy

The Image Resource Facility will soon add state-of-the art light sheet imaging to the repertoire of facilities available to biomedical and clinical researchers at SGUL. The new system is being developed in collaboration with experts from Cairn Research, a UK-based firm of specialists in the development of bespoke fluorescence imaging instrumentation. The design will be loosely based on the OpenSPIM project, but expanded to provide dual-sided illumination.

What is Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM) and what can it do?

To understand how proteins function in living organisms it is becoming increasingly important to observe directly the proteins and the processes they control (e.g. cell division, organ patterning and formation) in complex three-dimensional specimens over extended periods of time (hours to days). LSFM allows us to do just this. In LSFM the sample, typically a whole living organism (e.g. zebrafish embryo) is illuminated with a thin sheet of fluorescence light a few hundred nanometers in the z-axis, from a lens/objective system placed perpendicular to the axis of detection lens.



Diagram of a typical Light Sheet imaging setup

The narrow z-dimension of the light sheet restricts excitation of fluorophores within the sample to only a small volume right at the focal plane of the detection lens providing 1) excellent 2D optical sectioning of the entire specimen and 2) reducing photo-damage and toxicity due to the illumination light itself. Rapid and precise movement of the specimen through the light sheet enables 2D image capture at different positions within the sample allowing for 3D reconstruction. Reduced photo-damage and bleaching of the fluorescent sample coupled with rapid data capture using sensitive imaging cameras allows faster and longer periods of image acquisition with minimal disturbance to the sample. Using LSFM processes such as embryogenesis, organ patterning, cell migration and interactions can to be studied in real time and in 3D providing valuable new information that cannot be obtained by other methods.

Development of a multiuser LSFM within the IRF reflects the strong and ongoing commitment by SGUL to support and promote cutting edge biomedical research at SGUL. Researchers across all SGUL institutes are set to benefit from this new investment, and the development of close links to our industrial collaborators, Cairn Research UK, will help ensure that SGUL researchers and students remain abreast of the latest developments in fluorescence imaging technologies. Jeremy Graham, Managing Director of Cairn Research commented "We are committed to low-phototoxicity imaging and are delighted to have the opportunity to work with SGUL in the development of a single plane light sheet imaging system".

jez cairn

Cairn Research Managing Director, Jeremy Graham (second from left) checking component specifications for the new optical system.


IRF Inauguration


“I like microscopes”, that was the opening gambit from Ferran Valderrama, academic director of the Image Resource Facility (IRF) at the relaunch of the IRF.


After approximately £300,000 investment and three years of planning, the improved IRF was praised as not only having enhanced the quality of light microscopy work on site at St George’s, but also as having increased the Trust use of the facility. Better microscopy facilities have the benefit of increasing research quality, student research facilities and income into the university.


Researchers are now able to generate high resolution 3D images of samples with the use of a new microscope, the ‘Nikon A1R inverted confocal microscope’, acquired as part of a new partnership with Nikon. The microscope can be used for time-lapse experiments to study matters such as the development of model organisms, the effects of drug treatment on cells, and cellular and host/pathogen interactions.


Ferran opened the event by acknowledging the work and dedication of Maria McGlynn, IRF Manager, and Greg Perry, Light Microscopy Specialist, as well as Director of Operations, Katia Nesbitt.


He said, “Maria and Greg's work has been paramount to the continual improvements of the facility. And Katia’s guidance and views on the development plan have been instrumental to guarantee the present and future of the facility.”

Talks were given by some of the researchers who have used the improved facility. The audience heard from Dr Kim Jonas, Lecturer in Reproductive Physiology, who talked about how she had used the equipment for fertility research; Dr Dan Osborn, Lecturer in Genetics, who models human genetic diseases in zebra fish, with thanks to the Biological Research Facility; and Dr Soo-Hyun Kim, Senior Lecturer, on imaging disease models for personalised medicine.


The IRF also houses a fully-equipped sample preparation and histology section, as well as Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and slide scanning resources available to students and researchers. The IRF team offer hands-on training by expert scientific and technical support staff.


Professor of Molecular Biology Mark Fisher and Dean of Research, addressed the assembled group to say, “We aim to offer excellence and impact at St George’s and with the right people, insight and improvements to equipment, we can greatly benefit our research, education and enterprise.”


Those who attended the opening event enjoyed some complimentary refreshments while on a tour of the facility.




The Nikon A1R and Partnership Agreement

The Image Resource Facility (IRF) is proud to announce a new partnership with Nikon alongside the acquisition of a new Nikon A1R confocal microscope as part of the expansion of our Light Microscopy Suite. This agreement will bring collaborative educational events to St George’s, as a complement to the microscopy training provided by the IRF.

The Nikon A1R inverted confocal microscope enables high resolution (up to 4096x4096 pixels), high speed (up to 420fps depending on scan area), and high sensitivity imaging. The system houses 405/488/561/633nm solid-state lasers and 10/20/40/60x high-numerical aperture objectives. Live imaging was a key element of the system specification, and this is achieved with the Okolab incubation chamber and gas mix system for fine control of CO2 and temperature. The full system specification and other microscope systems available can be viewed in the Nikon A1R page of our website.

Alongside this new microscope acquisition, the IRF has undergone extensive refurbishment of the Light Microscopy Suite and main corridor, and relaunched both its booking system and facility website.

Nikon A1R for news

Booking and Registration

Contact Us

Image Resource Facility
Lower Ground Floor Jenner Wing
Cranmer Terrace
SW17 0RE

Tel: +44 (0)20 8725 5218