Diamond’s infrared beamline steps up to living cells research

Principal Beamline Scientist Dr Gianfelice Cinque shows Prof. Welham sample holders used on Diamond’s B22 beamline.
Principal Beamline Scientist Dr Gianfelice Cinque shows Prof. Welham sample holders used on Diamond’s B22 beamline.
Photo | Principal Beamline Scientist Dr Gianfelice Cinque shows Prof. Welham sample holders used on Diamond’s B22 beamline.

 Diamond’s Multimode Infrared Imaging and Microspectroscopy (MIRIAM) beamline (B22) is launching a new upgrade to offer researchers unique insights into cell metabolism and the effects of drugs and other compounds on living cells.

By upgrading the beamline to containment level 2 (CL2), the combination of the beamline with the associated Cell Culture Lab will now provide internationally leading capabilities in cell biology and biomedical applications for both academia and industry. To celebrate the upgrade, Professor Melanie Welham, CEO of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has today visited the beamline.

“Infrared light is capable of revealing the molecular structure of organic matter, which is invisible in standard microscopy, by using vibrational signals – the so called ‘IR fingerprint’ – to identify and quantify molecules of interest at microscopic scale,” explains Dr Gianfelice Cinque, Principal Beamline Scientist.

“UK researchers across the biosciences continue to push the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding, providing opportunities to tackle the global challenges we face across food, energy and healthcare” said Prof. Welham. “Advanced, specialised facilities and capabilities are an essential part of maintaining world-leading bioscience and the addition of the Multimode Infrared Imaging and Microspectroscopy beamline will strengthen the UK as a centre of scientific excellence.”

The extremely bright synchrotron infrared light at Diamond allows fast and sensitive experiments that are detailed studies on the inner machinery of living cells, as well as biochemical actions, for example those of a drug at the single cell level.

“This is particularly relevant for example in chemotherapy studies,” continues Dr Cinque. “As the different responses of diverse cancer types to specific drug molecules can be pinpointed at a single cell level.”

The beamline also offers access to an adjacent cell culture lab, which allows a comprehensive approach – from sample preparation to analysis – key to helping researchers to directly detect the early stages of biochemical change in living cells in real time.

One of the most interdisciplinary beamlines at Diamond, with impact beyond biomedicine in cultural heritage and archaeology, new materials, mineralogy and volcanology, as well as space science, MIRIAM provides researchers with the highest possible spectral quality and spatial resolution, allowing researchers to produce data-rich results unachievable by benchtop lab devices.

“Continuing to develop world-leading facilities is key to Diamond remaining an agent of change for the good of the global community,” concludes Professor Dave Stuart, Life Sciences Director at Diamond and MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford. “As we see population aging on the increase offering researchers cutting-edge techniques for investigating therapies for cancers and diseases like Parkinson’s is all the more vital.”