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New technology speeds discoveries in 'core lab'

A central theme has emerged in the nation’s medical research community over the past few years: Solutions to the most complex biomedical questions result from collaborative research.

John Ohlfest, Ph.D.

That theme is forefront on the mind of John Ohlfest, Ph.D., the University of Minnesota’s director of translational gene therapy and director of the University’s gene and stem cell core laboratory. A “core” lab describes a research space at the University that is accessible to all disciplines for a variety of scientific objectives. Some discoveries‚ for example‚ could aid researchers looking for treatments for Alzheimer’s disease‚ Parkinson’s disease‚ and ataxia.

“My vision for the core lab is to accelerate neuroscience research through the use of state-ofthe-art technology‚” says Ohlfest. “More specifically‚ it’s to provide technology to researchers to help them identify the causes of nervous system disorders and new treatments for neurological diseases.”

Ohlfest’s vision is in sync with that of the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC) board of directors‚ which provides funding to help equip this laboratory with the innovative tools researchers need to accomplish these goals.

“Funding the core lab can help solidify additional funding from the National Institutes of Health‚ attract the brightest researchers‚ encourage collaboration among these top-notch scientists‚ and ultimately find cures for diseases like ataxia‚” says board chair Mark Allison.

As part of this mission‚ the BAARC board recently helped to purchase two pieces of equipment for the gene and stem cell core lab. In January‚ the board approved the purchase of the Xenogen imaging system‚ a technology that uses luminescence to monitor cell health and evaluate the effectiveness of various therapies. And this fall‚ a custom-built two-photon confocal microscope‚ which will allow researchers to identify and view multiple cell types in three dimensions‚ arrived at the University.

“The Xenogen system has been a success thus far in that all groups are getting data and moving their projects forward‚” Ohlfest says. “These technologies significantly enhance the pace and progress of research.”

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