Feb. 24, 2020

Inside view

Powerful microscope provides unique perspective
Confocal microscope
Dr. Zhenpeng Song, PhD, peers through the Institute’s new confocal microscope. Britton Ledingham

You can’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of a number of scientists at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute. 
The excitement is over the recent arrival of a powerful new microscope with the ability to penetrate through layers of tissue to capture images of what lies beneath. 

The $1.2 million, two-photon confocal microscope is a boon to scientists at the Libin Institute. 

One of those scientists is the Libin’s Director of Research, Professor Rob Rose, PhD, who will use the confocal microscope to look at heart Purkinje cells, which are specialized conducting fibers that have a role in the heartbeat. 

“It allows us to look at intact organs at different depths,” says Rose, whose research interests lie in understanding the problems of the heartbeat at the cellular level, including atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disturbance that can cause breathlessness, fatigue and dizziness and is linked to sudden cardiac death. 
“This is important for understanding how the cells are interacting with one another.”

The microscope, which fills a room at the Institute, was purchased, in part, from funds raised at the fourth annual The Beat Goes on Gala, put on in 2017 to raise funds for cardiovascular research, education and care.  Canadian Pacific Rail (CP) was the signature sponsor of this event. 

Rose is grateful for the community’s generosity, noting he expects the microscope to have a large impact on his research program. 

“Discovery science wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community,” says Rose. “We need each other to make a real impact in the lives of patients.”

It took some time for the specialized piece of equipment to be set up, and for the necessary training to occur, but the confocal is now up and running. 

Several spectacular images are being captured by scientists working with Dr. Wayne Chen, PhD, who has been recognized as a Clarivate Highly Cited Scholar for his work in mapping the structure of the ryanodine receptor, which plays an important role in heartbeat as it opens and closes to allow the movement of calcium at a cellular level within heart cells. 

According to Rose, in addition to its use in individual research programs, the confocal microscope could lead to collaboration within the Institute and beyond. 

CP also directed funds for the Institute raised at their CP Has Heart Clear Rounds for Heart event in 2017 and 2018.