Yale School of Medicine recruits pioneering scientists in imaging technology

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C. Shan Xu and Song Pang, two scientists recognized for their contributions to 3D imaging technology, have joined the Yale School of Medicine medical school.

Mai Chen

01:46, January 28, 2022

Collaborating journalist


Sophia Zhao

The Yale School of Medicine recently recruited C. Shan Xu and Song Pang, two scientists who pioneered imaging technology that has supported advances in tissue biology, cell biology, and the neural pathway system in the brain.

Focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy, or FIB-SEM, is a scientific instrument that resembles a scanning electron microscope, or SEM. It is an important imaging technology, which can digitize more images than before and can produce higher quality 3D images with increased reliability. Xu, director of FIB-SEM technologies at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, and Pang, research application scientist in the FIB-SEM technology division, will join the faculty in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. Pang will lead collaborations using this technology through a pre-established FIB-SEM collaboration consortium core.

“We can combine this cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology with Yale’s world-class scientists who can use it to enable their incredible discoveries,” Xu said.

According to Pang, their goal is to “cultivate a rich ecosystem, from imaging to data analysis to discovery.”

FIB-SEM was recently used to generate a map of every synaptic connection in a fruit fly brain, but also has a wider range of capabilities. In the past, Yale researchers James Rothman and Pietro De Camilli have used the technology to explore the structure of the Golgi complex and the contacts between subcellular organelles in neurons, respectively.

However, there are downsides to the technology. Michael Caplan, Chairman and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, detailed the main limitations of FIB-SEM, emphasizing both the scale allowed and the volume of data generated.

“One of the challenges for FIB-SEM is the [sheer] mass of generated data. Even a relatively small block of tissue can produce tens of thousands of images,” Caplan wrote. “To be useful, it is necessary that each of these images be analyzed and that the structures they contain are identified and annotated. This process, called segmentation, requires the development of image analysis tools based on artificial intelligence. It is hoped that the Yale FIB-SEM program will spark new collaborations with Yale researchers who will help develop new tools.

Caplan added that the recruitment of Xu and Pang represents the University’s major commitment to developing the next generation of FIB-SEM technology and a dedicated effort to ensure this powerful technique is widely available to the medical community. biological sciences at Yale.

According to Caplan, the University has sown the seeds for future collaborations that will influence the directions in which the FIB-SEM technology will develop and the capabilities it will acquire. Additionally, the availability of a core FIB-SEM collaborative consortium will catalyze discovery across all biological disciplines represented at the School of Medicine, Main Campus, and West Campus.

“The recruitment of Xu and Pang – eminent scientists in the field will not only take biological FIB-SEM at Yale to the next level, but it could also boost the use of other electron microscopy on campus, such as traditional biological electron microscopy and cryo electron microscopy,” Xinran Liu, director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Imaging Electron Microscopy Facility, wrote in an email to the News.

In the future, the development of the FIB-SEM program should lead to improvements in the resolution of this technique and the image processing tools needed to analyze the data it generates.

Caplan said he hopes the development that will be undertaken at Yale will expand the capabilities of this technique, particularly to identify specific molecules in cells.

“This breakthrough would be very significant because while FIB-SEM currently reveals cell and tissue structures in exquisite detail, it does not provide insight into the location of specific molecular components of cells,” Caplan wrote. “The development that will be undertaken at Yale will seek to broaden the range of this technique in order to enable it to identify specific molecules. This realization would allow FIB-SEM to truly connect the understanding of cellular structure with the understanding of physiological function.

In 2018, Yale acquired the region’s only focused ion beam scanning electron microscope.

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