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Our group

Bioimaging at The Pirbright Institute brings together cutting edge instrumentation and a dynamic, experienced team to provide exciting collaboration opportunities.  This combination of expertise, knowledge and state of the art equipment place Bioimaging at Pirbright at the forefront of global containment microscopy.

High resolution microscopes provide the opportunity for researchers to visualise viruses in situ and identify the location of molecules within cells.  The bespoke Bioimaging Suite in the new Plowright building houses both confocal laser scanning microscopes and transmission electron microscopes within a high containment envelope enabling the study of live viruses and their interactions with host cells.  The instruments located within the Bioimaging Suite provide a unique environment for the study of animal and zoonotic pathogens, and are available for use by both internal and external collaborators.

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

The Suite is equipped with various pieces of sample preparation equipment for light microscopy and electron microscopy including Leica cryostats and vibrating microtomes, Leica UC6 ultramicrotome, UC7 (cryo) ultramicrotome, Leica HPM100 and AFS2.

The Bioimaging group consists of two experienced staff members who have a broad knowledge of the techniques needed to image viruses, as well as expertise in using the instrumentation itself.  The group has a particular interest in investigating and imaging nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses.

Our aims

The aims of the Bioimaging group are to promote the use of microscopy in the study of animal and zoonotic pathogens and to ensure excellence in microscopy at The Pirbright Institute.  The operation of cutting edge, high resolution microscopes at high containment brings many technical, practical and strategic difficulties, but it is our aim to establish Bioimaging at The Pirbright Institute as the gold standard for containment microscopy.

Our research

Bioimaging already works alongside many groups within the Institute and now we are able to collaborate with researchers within the UK and overseas.  Recent collaborations have included work on foot-and-mouth disease virus, infectious bronchitis virus, African swine fever virus, rinderpest virus, bluetongue virus, Marek’s disease virus, Hendra virus (with AAHL, Geelong, Australia) and pox viruses.

Bioimaging staff members are also involved in the promotion of microscopy within the UK and overseas.  This includes teaching and training microscopists at various Universities around the world, and encouraging schools to include microscopy as part of their curriculum.

Our impact

Virus infection of host cells can be broken down into several broad steps; entry, genome replication, morphogenesis and exit.  Full understanding of these processes is needed before we are able to manipulate them to prevent viral spread.  Microscopes are used to localise viral proteins and identify interactions at a host cell level so we can understand how viruses use their environment to proliferate.  This fundamental research can be used to develop procedures or reagents which block infection, therefore providing the basis for an anti-viral treatment or vaccine.  Vaccines and anti-viral treatments for animal pathogens reduce financial losses for farmers, increase productivity and enhance the health of the animal population.

Group members

Sanz-Bernardo B, Haga I R, Wijesiriwardana N, Hawes P C, Simpson J, Morrison L R, MacIntyre N, Brocchi E, Atkinson J, Haegeman A, De Clercq K, Darpel K E, Beard P M (2020)

Veterinary Pathology 57 (3) , 388-396
Montaner-Tarbes S, Pujol M, Jabbar T, Hawes P, Chapman D, Portillo H, Fraile L, Sánchez-Cordón P J, Dixon L, Montoya M (2019)

Viruses 11 (10) , 882
Publisher’s version:
Zhang Y, Tang N, Luo J, Teng M, Moffat K, Shen Z, Watson M, Nair V, Yao Y (2019)

Journal of Virology 93 (17) , JVI.00713-19
Zhang Y, Luo J, Tang N, Teng M, Reddy V, Moffat K, Shen Z, Nair V, Yao Y (2019)

Viruses 11 (5) , 391
Publisher’s version:
Goldeck D, Perry D M, Hayes J W P, Johnson L P M, Young J E, Roychoudhury P, McLuskey E L, Moffat K, Bakker A Q, Kwakkenbos M J, Frossard J-P, Rowland R R R, Murtaugh M P, Graham S P (2019)

Frontiers in Immunology 10 , 572


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