Confocal microscope shines new light on muscle development

Confocal Scott Nowack dc 3.jpeg

Molecular biology research benefits from National Science Foundation grant

 

What can a fruit fly tell scientists about human muscle development and, hopefully, how to cure muscular dystrophy?

Turns out quite a lot, because as much we might like to think mammals are different from these insects, we share similar muscle development under the skin.

However, it takes a confocal microscope to see what’s going on inside the tiny structures.

Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant of $334,632, Kennesaw State University was recently able to acquire the Zeiss LSM 700 Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope. Kennesaw State is one of a few universities in the state to have one of these cutting-edge technological marvels.

“The confocal microscope allows us to image and render a 3D image of living and nonliving tissues,” explained Scott Nowak. The Kennesaw State biologist worked together with fellow College of Science and Mathematics professors Marcus Davis, John Salerno and Martin Hudson to secure the funding. Davis led the proposal development team and will coordinate instrument use, training and maintenance.

In addition to Dr. Nowak’s research group, the microscope will be utilized as part of a multidisciplinary effort. In effect, researchers, assisted by graduate students, will be able to peer into living cells as they go about the business of dividing and communicating with each other.

“For example, my group is using fruit flies to see how muscles are formed, how they’re built, how they’re put together,” Nowak said.

“Fruit flies have many advantages to using lab mice. For one thing since they are so small and relatively inexpensive, we can maintain 300 lines of flies in a small space in our lab. Unlike mice, which take three months to mature, the flies reach maturity in just 10 days, so our experimental timescale is far more experimentally tractable.

”What’s good about this is that with this device, we can better see how muscles form. This information can tell us so much about how slight changes to a single protein can result in big changes to the development of muscle fiber.”

According to Nowak, it’s hoped that such research on the molecular biology of muscle development will provide the necessary foundation for improving efficacy of therapies aimed at mitigating or reversing the devastating effects of muscle wasting in humans.

-- By Robert S. Godlewski