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Tool kit: Opera Phenix high-content screening system

By Eleni Kanavas  •  Jul 6, 2017


Automated confocal microscope is best in class

Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) recently installed the Opera Phenix by PerkinElmer. The state-of-the-art confocal microscope takes pictures of cells at a volume of 100,000 images per day for high-content screening analysis.

The Opera Phenix is designed to collect fluorescence images automatically in postcard-sized plates containing 96, 384 or 1,536 samples. This allows for the collection of far more data points than any person could collect in the same amount of time. It is also capable of capturing the highest quality fluorescence signal of interest in a sample, with the least interference of background “noise” or unwanted fluorescence signal.

The research lab of Dr. David Andrews, director of Biological Sciences, uses the microscope to study protein trafficking in cells and the regulation of automated cell death across a variety of cell lines.

“[The microscope has] a five-laser system that allows us to continue using fluorescence resonance energy transfer techniques, for example, to study protein-protein interactions in living cells, in addition to the standard array of fluorescence dyes and probes used in the field today,” says Jarkko Ylanko, a research technician in the Andrews lab. “The OperaPhenix also has the ability to collect bright field images and work with traditional slides.” He notes the system is a one-stop shop operated by a software package called Harmony, which includes the microscope controls, and a complete suite of image analysis and data visualization tools.

Other researchers using the microscope include Drs. Stanley Liu, Robert Screaton and David Spaner. Projects include finding therapeutic targets to personalize medicine in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and studying tumour formation using 3-D culture systems for breast and ovarian cancer.

The system will enable the Andrews lab to develop new approaches to understanding how proteins and small molecules function in cells. The equipment was installed in December 2016. It is worth $2 million and was purchased with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.