UTA researcher receives NIH grant for cutting-edge microscope system

Monday, Jul 29, 2019 • Elizabeth Couch : UT Arlington Media Relations

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CoNHI) will soon have a cutting-edge microscope system at their fingertips, thanks to a $449,000 Shared Instrument Grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant awarded to Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing and biology, will be used to purchase a Nikon A1R inverted laser scanning confocal microscope system, a shared resource to be housed inside UTA's Science & Engineering Innovation & Research (SEIR) facility.

Laser scanning confocal microscopes provide the highest imaging resolution an optical microscope can achieve when studying intracellular signals, protein trafficking and localization, nanoparticles and drug subcellular distribution, cell differentiation and cell migration. 

“This elegant high-end optical instrument will greatly increase our research capacity and make it more comprehensive,” Pan said. “The microscope will significantly facilitate NIH-funded projects, and it will allow a group of 14 researchers, including five NIH-funded major users, to address specific research questions that may be key to advancing our knowledge of human health.” 

The purchase, arrival and installation of the confocal microscope is expected to be completed by the start of the fall 2019 semester. 

Pan, a leading esophageal cancer researcher, heads a lab that is largely devoted to the study and treatment of the disease. Esophageal cancer, the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide, is responsible for nearly 16,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society. It has few symptoms and is often diagnosed at a later stage. The five-year survival rate is less than 20 percent.

The microscope system will be shared by UTA researchers in the SEIR, a $125 million state-of-the-art facility that opened in September 2018. The building is home to UTA investigators who focus on interdisciplinary research around major health science challenges, such as brain health, cancer, cardiovascular health, healthy aging and rehabilitative medicine.

According to Pan, the support and continued commitment from CoNHI leaders were important factors in acquiring the instrument. 

“We are thankful for the opportunity to bring this incredible instrument to our campus,” Pan said. “We hope it will help us advance our studies and serve as a tool to help recruit other faculty to join our research efforts.”