San Antonio (July 27, 2004) – About 30 scientists from Israel, Japan, Germany, England, Puerto Rico and Mexico visited The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio this summer for an optical microscopy course. The course director said the program, offered every other year, is on a par with optical biology courses at hallowed institutes such as Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
The Hamamatsu Corp., a $600 million publicly held and traded Japanese company with 20 offices worldwide, partnered with the Health Science Center by providing scholarships for several of the international students to attend the course titled “Optical Microscopy in the Biological Sciences.”
Hamamatsu and the Health Science Center have enjoyed a three-year scientific and educational collaboration, said Victoria C. Frohlich, Ph.D., assistant professor of cellular and structural biology. “Microscopy and other techniques assist studies of aging, cancer, drug delivery and more,” she said. “These are not just ‘oh wow’ pictures, but we are getting information that ultimately will extend to clinical research in many fields.”
The course is one of only three or four in the country. “It is a rare opportunity for younger scientists,” Dr. Frohlich noted. The Health Science Center provides teaching faculty and invites distinguished guest lecturers, while Hamamatsu and other imaging companies provide commercial faculty who acquaint students with the latest technologies for biological imaging. The inaugural course was held in 2000.
The Health Science Center and Hamamatsu recently developed a new product based on scientific research concepts advanced by Brian Herman, Ph.D., professor and chairman of cellular and structural biology at the Health Science Center. “We are the development site,” Dr. Frohlich said. “The Health Science Center is the only place in the world where we are obtaining this kind of data.” She said the device is a “streak” camera that can acquire data faster than other systems. The product is being commercialized by Hamamatsu, with product rollout expected this year.
The optical microscopy course featured millions of dollars of equipment, said Butch Moomaw, biomedical product manager for Hamamatsu Photonic Systems, a division of Hamamatsu Corp. “A course like this is a huge investment for a vendor,” he said. “We do only three or four a year, and we like to work with scientific innovators such as Dr. Herman and his colleagues. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to be here one week.”
The course meets a critical need for training, Dr. Frohlich said. “Teaching of microscopy is a vanishing art, even as microscopy is becoming more advanced. Training eliminates unreliable results. For example, fluorescent tags can show the difference between normal and cancerous cells. A cancer emits light of different colors than a healthy cell. We can also see proteins and protein interactions that can determine health outcomes.”