Scientists around the world peer into Chicago microscope at same time

May 3, 2012 By Marla Paul

A scientist in Austria or elsewhere in the world can now peer into a Chicago collaborator’s microscope in real time while an experiment is being conducted at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

iExperiment is a novel portal developed at Northwestern where scientists from around the globe can watch and participate in experiments in reproductive health for the Oncofertility Consortium, a National Institutes of Health-funded research project to explore reproductive options for cancer survivors.

“This is the first time researchers can look into a colleague’s microscope from anywhere in the world,” said Teresa Woodruff, director and founder of the Oncofertility Consortium and chief of fertility preservation at Northwestern’s Feinberg School.

The new application of technology will speed the pace of scientific discoveries, she said. “A better way to do science is to share it in real time and have people look at the data as it is collected and to apply that knowledge in their own laboratories,” Woodruff said. “And that is a real paradigm shift in science.”

An upcoming paper in The Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology describes Northwestern’s new uses of technology in oncofertility that can be applied to other scientific research.

Woodruff’s research focuses on growing a woman’s immature egg cell, contained in a tiny sac called a follicle, to a healthy and nearly mature egg in the laboratory. The research has the potential to eventually provide a new fertility option for women whose cancer treatments destroy their ability to reproduce.

Each digital in Woodruff’s follicle culture room has a camera that streams live video via Vidyo desktop conferencing software. This gives scientists access to the laboratory from any location in the world and allows them to watch experiments on their computers or mobile devices and communicate directly with the researchers.

“Hopefully what we have done is catalyze the research so that instead of having to wait to see the results published, researchers can begin the next generation of work now,” said Woodruff, who also is the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We think that is really going to mobilize reproductive health sciences in a significant way and could mobilize all science activities.”

The Woodruff Lab collaborated with Northwestern University Information Technology to implement the software and adapt existing video conferencing technologies to create iExperiment.

Woodruff’s goal is to grow a human follicle into a mature egg in vitro that can eventually be fertilized, which represents a solution for cancer patients. “If we work in a traditional way, by ourselves, it will happen, but it will happen too slowly,” she said. “So to ensure the pace and the quality of the research is as high as possible, we felt that a global collaboration was necessary.”

Last fall the group launched the first Oncofertility 101 course, in which international and United States researchers learn techniques used in Woodruff’s lab, such as in vitro follicle dissection. The iExperiment software is installed on their computers so they can work with Feinberg collaborators from afar and share data as it is being discovered, noted Kate Timmerman, director of the oncofertility program.

“Scientists come from as close as Madison, Wisconsin, and as far as Austria, Australia and South America,” Timmerman said. “iExperiment brings us together.”

Explore further: Zinc 'sparks' fly from egg within minutes of fertilization

Related Stories

Zinc 'sparks' fly from egg within minutes of fertilization

July 22, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- At fertilization, a massive release of the metal zinc appears to set the fertilized egg cell on the path to dividing and growing into an embryo, according to the results of animal studies supported by the ...

Life beyond cancer: Starting a family following treatment

October 24, 2011
Five years ago, Sheri Scott was beginning a new chapter in her life. The recently engaged 31-year-old was eagerly browsing bridal magazines and busy planning for her big day. Unfortunately, just weeks following her engagement, ...

Recommended for you

Manipulating a type of brain cell gets weight loss results in mice

July 28, 2017
A new study has found something remarkable: the activation of a particular type of immune cell in the brain can, on its own, lead to obesity in mice. This striking result provides the strongest demonstration yet that brain ...

Team finds link between backup immune defense, mutation seen in Crohn's disease

July 27, 2017
Genes that regulate a cellular recycling system called autophagy are commonly mutated in Crohn's disease patients, though the link between biological housekeeping and inflammatory bowel disease remained a mystery. Now, researchers ...

Study finds harmful protein on acid triggers a life-threatening disease

July 27, 2017
Using an array of modern biochemical and structural biology techniques, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have begun to unravel the mystery of how acidity influences a small protein called serum ...

CRISPR sheds light on rare pediatric bone marrow failure syndrome

July 27, 2017
Using the gene editing technology CRISPR, scientists have shed light on a rare, sometimes fatal syndrome that causes children to gradually lose the ability to manufacture vital blood cells.

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.