Higher-order/large-scale chromatin structure plays a critical role in gene regulation, and its dysregulation is a hallmark of most cancers. This involves a hierarchy of length scales from a few tens of nanometers for nucleosomes to hundreds of nanometers for chromatin loops. The Nanocytometry Core provides quantitative analysis of the physical structure of chromatin with a custom designed and built microscope capable of both nanoscale sensitivity and super-resolution imaging. This unique instrument does not exist anywhere else in the world.
The instrument combines two complementary micro/nanoscopic techniques: partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) nanocytometry, which quantifies the statistical properties of molecular density distribution within live or fixed cells for length scales from 10 to 200 nm, and Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscope (STORM), a super-resolution microscopy offering molecular-specific images with resolution as high as ~20-60 nm. The core staff is developing a combined STORM-nanocytology software system that allows for seamless integration of the microscopy techniques with a co-registration capability.
The application of this instrument to the Chicago Region Physical Oncology Sciences Center studies allows investigators the ability to image and sense the chromatin structure with sensitivity down to 10-20 nm in live as well as fixed cells, and can work with individual cells as well as able to analyze thousands of cells across an entire slide within minutes. CR-PSOC Investigators anticipate that this cutting-edge microscopy system will open up new directions for basic science as well as translational research.