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One of the advantages of being a researcher at the Danforth Center is access to our “core facilities,” which offer a variety of state-of-the-art instrumentation and technology, executed by highly skilled technicians capable of running the equipment and interpreting data. The existing four core facilities at the Center (Integrated Microscopy, Tissue Culture and Transformation, Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry, and the Plant Growth facility) will soon be joined by a fifth: Biocomputing/Bioinformatics.
Center core facilities are also used on a fee-for-service basis by other plant and life science companies, providing an important revenue stream for the Center and added incentive for companies to locate themselves in St. Louis.
Integrated Microscopy Facility (IMF):
With its sophisticated imaging equipment and advanced methods for quantitative analysis, IMF allows Center scientists to study greatly magnified details of plant cells and tissues, as well as to conduct studies requiring three-dimensional imaging of molecules, cells and tissues.
Using the facility’s live cell imaging system, 3-D images and 4-D movies of living cells can be created. For even greater magnification, thin-section electron microscopy services are also available, which utilize an ultra-rapid freezing process to give the best possible preservation of cells. The IMF also has a Laser Capture Lab that provides the technology to dissect tissue, cell and subcellular components for molecular analysis.
Tissue Culture and Transformation:
This facility is a critical component of the Center’s ability to help move scientific breakthroughs from the laboratory into farmers’ fields. Tissue or cell culture involves manipulating and growing plant cells or tissues in order to understand and improve traits of interest in existing or novel crop species. The stable integration of new or modified genes into key crops builds upon thousands of years of agricultural trait selection and remains a central technology in today’s plant research programs. As rapid developments in plant genomic research continue to identify more genes of agricultural interest, unlocking and harnessing their promise increasingly relies on strategies, techniques, and technologies available in the Center’s Plant Transformation Facility.
The Tissue Culture Facility operates both as a full-service facility delivering transgenics and cell cultures to researchers, and a self-service facility providing a high quality work environment for researchers to use for their own specific project needs.
Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry:
This facility provides high quality sample analysis in proteomics, metabolomics, and related analytic fields. Proteomics is the large-scale study of protein dynamic changes in an organism, tissue or cell at different times or conditions. Because proteins play a central role in cell metabolic processes, they can be used as signature molecules that indicate a particular biologic state of interest. Metabolomics is similarly defined but the focus here is on the study of small molecules such hormones or lipids that are commonly found in plants. Mass spectrometry is the analytical technique used for the majority of proteomics and metabolomics studies, and consists in the analysis of the structure and abundance of charged molecules to determine the protein or small molecule composition of samples. The understanding of the impact of proteins and small molecules on plant metabolism helps researchers to improve crop yields and nutrient concentrations using other plant biotechnologies.
In addition to producing first-rate, publication quality data results for its clients, this facility provides training and unique access to cutting-edge technologies for scientists in the region who are interested in developing new knowledge and investigative skills. With its highly specialized capabilities and research initiatives, the facility serves as a regional and national resource in its fast-developing field.
Plant Growth Facility:
Located within two structures, the Danforth Center greenhouses and growth chambers are built for research product development. The space includes 49 controlled environment plant growth chambers/rooms and 28 greenhouse compartments. Computer controlled systems continuously monitor greenhouse and growth chamber conditions and alert staff if the environment deviates from programmed parameters. The staff provides daily care of plants according to specified conditions so that researchers are able to focus on science rather than plant maintenance.
Growth chambers offer the most complete control for simulating various environments. Parameters including temperature, light intensity, day length, humidity and CO2 levels can be modified to give researchers the ability to replicate climates around the world. The greenhouses are also technologically advanced, with air-conditioned chambers that allow cool-weather crops to be grown even through the sweltering St. Louis summer. Groundbreaking for Greenhouse III will occur in 2011, nearly doubling the current facility’s square footage.
Facilitated by the generous grant from the Danforth Foundation, a fifth core facility will be developed after incoming President Dr. Jim Carrington joins the Center officially in May. This resource, according to Dr. Carrington, will offer “computational facilities and computational staff that function at the interface between biology and computers.” Genomes are being sequenced and analyzed at faster and faster rates, creating enormous datasets that require unique computational facilities and skills. “We're also analyzing natural variation among populations of plants, and functionality of genomes using new technologies and heavy computing power,” said Carrington. “The integration of plant science, computation, mathematics, even physics and chemistry, will eventually allow useful, predictive models for how plants work and respond to environmental changes.”
| Tissue Culture and TransformationSt. LouisresearchProteomics and Mass SpectrometryPlant sciencePlant Growth FacilityIntegrated Microscopy Facilitydanforth centercore facilitiesBiocomputing/Bioinformatics