Preface content



The Pirbright Institute houses a unique Bioimaging facility containing advanced confocal and electron microscopes, flow cytometry analysers and cell sorters.

Instruments are located in both the high containment Plowright and low containment Jenner buildings making them accessible to all researchers.  The scope of imaging and analytical techniques available inside the SAPO4 envelope is globally unique.  It is possible to image, analyse and sort live cells from host animals infected in the Institute isolation units.  Microscopy and flow techniques are used to identify immune cell types, enrich special cell populations, localise host or viral proteins within cells and study the cell biology of host-pathogen interactions at high resolution.  .

The Bioimaging facility underpins much of the research at the Institute, with over 80 registered users from across both programmes.  The three experienced Bioimaging team members are responsible for the smooth operation and continued use of this core facility.  They provide training and support to ensure users collect the most robust and best quality data possible, and they develop new techniques to push the limits of the equipment to give more information.

Further information on flow cytometry and cell-sorting.

The Bioimaging facility is supported by the BBRSC Core Capability grant, BBS/E/I/00007039.

Inside the SAPO4 high containment labs we have a Leica SP8 confocal laser scanning microscope for imaging fixed and fluorescently labelled cell and tissue samples, plus a Leica SP8 gSTED for confocal or superresolution imaging of fixed or live infected cells.

Also in the high containment environment we run two transmission electron microscopes, a FEI T12 for routine imaging of resin embedded samples and negative stain preparations plus a JEOL 2100F for electron tomography of host-pathogen interactions at the cellular level.  A fully equipped EM preparation lab supports these microscopes giving us the capability for routine preparation, high pressure freezing/freeze substitution (for tomography) and cryo-ultramicrotomy for immunogold labelling.

Outside the high containment labs we run a Leica SP5 confocal laser scanning microscope for users in the Jenner building.

Specialist equipment

This BBSRC-funded facility contains new, advanced instruments which are at the forefront of microscopy today.  Our instrument portfolio is detailed below:

  • Leica SP8 CLSM with gSTED, inverted microscope stand for live or fixed samples
  • Leica SP8 CLSM, upright microscope stand for fixed samples
  • Leica SP5 CLSM, upright and inverted microscope stands for live or fixed samples (located outside of the containment envelope)
  • Leica LMD 6000 and LMD 7000
  • FEI T12 120kV LaB6 transmission electron microscope for negatively stained samples and resin sections
  • JEOL 2100F 200kV FEG transmission electron microscope for tomography and cryo applications, including ClorDiSys gaseous chlorine dioxide column decontamination system
  • Leica HPM100 and AFS2, high pressure freezer and freeze substitution unit
  • Leica UC6 ultramicrotome and UC7 cryo-ultramicrotome
  • Leica cryostats and vibrating microtomes

Booking the facility

Please contact the Head of Bioimaging for further information on training opportunities, sharing facilities and expertise, collaboration or service work. 


Examples of some of the images produced by the microscopy team:

IBV trachea
Bronchitis virus infected chicken trachea
African swine fever virus
Bluetongue virus
Chicken gut epithelium
DIC of African swine fever virus infected cell
Foot-and-mouth virus infected tongue epithelium
Foot-and-mouth virus infected tongue epithelium
Organised smooth endoplasmic reticulum
Paneth cells
Uninfected cells
Vimentin labelled cell
Cell expressing African swine fever virus protein

The team

The microscopy team within the Bioimaging group consists of two experienced staff members who have detailed knowledge of the techniques needed to investigate the cell biology of host-pathogen interactions, and expertise in using the instrumentation itself.

We offer training on the instruments and analysis software, and support for experimental planning and image interpretation.  We collaborate on electron microscopy projects.  When considering a new project, please contact us at the earliest opportunity for advice on the techniques we can do at the Institute.

Professor Pippa Hawes, Group Leader, Head of Bioimaging
Ms Jennifer Simpson, Bioimaging Lab Manager


For further information please contact Professor Pippa Hawes:
Bioimaging Facility
The Pirbright Institute
Ash Road
GU24 0NF  

Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2024 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.