Research in the Hubrecht Institute is supported by a state-of-the-art research infrastructure, enabling our scientists to achieve high goals. The facilities are supported with skilled lab technicians and are refined in-house to suit the researchers’ needs.
Imaging is getting increasingly important for biomedical research, including the research at the Hubrecht Institute. In order to facilitate the fast-growing demand on imaging tools, in 2009 the ‘Hubrecht Imaging Center (HIC)’ was founded. The last few years, the institute acquired several advanced microscopes, now all part of the HIC.
Current imaging at the HIC ranges from simple phase-contrast imaging of cells to high-resolution imaging of living tissue. Advanced systems that are available at the HIC are confocal, two-photon, TIRF, FRAP, and FRET (including FLIM) microscopy. Not only modern, advanced microscopes are part of the imaging center, but also some historic microscopes have been retained.
At the Hubrecht Institute, we use imaging to follow intra- and extracellular processes in time. Using intravital microscopy, for instance, we are able to visualize the adaptive properties of cells in live animals. This technique allows us to capture images of biological processes, for instance to trace individual tumor cells in mice for several weeks at subcellular resolution. Also, by using advanced microscopy techniques, we can investigate processes like mitosis, and gain insight in chromosomal instability.
The HIC ensures high performance and optimal use of the advanced imaging equipment at the Hubrecht Institute by testing periodically and optimizing all systems, training of new researchers and providing support to advanced imaging experiments.
Single-cell analysis examines the sequence information from individual cells.
Each typical human cell contains about 6 billion base pairs of DNA, known as the genome. This genome is expressed differently in each human cell. Different levels of gene expression give each cell its specific characteristics and function through the production of different proteins. The expression of genes can be measured by analyzing the RNA, molecules that are transcribed from the DNA and convey genetic information to the ribosome. This is where protein production takes place.
To understand and analyze the regulation of gene expression patterns, quantitative RNA sequencing is used. To determine expression levels, in traditional sequencing methods a mix of millions of cells is used. But because that information is pooled, it lacks a high enough resolution to draw conclusions about individual cells.
Using single-cell sequencing, the expression patterns of independent cells can be investigated by examining their own sequence information. This provides a higher resolution. Also, by pooling this information from multiple independent cells, the function of cells can be examined within their context. For instance, by sequencing single cells from a tumor, the heterogeneity of the cancer can be assessed. In a larger scale, an atlas of all common and rare cell types could provide insight about their expression profiles and their abundance within an organ. One of the projects contributing to this is the Human Cell Atlas. This way, single cell analysis could lead to a better understanding of human health, diagnosing and monitoring, and the development of personalized treatments.
As a response to the growing demand for single cell sequencing projects, in July 2016, the Single Cell Sequencing Facility at the Hubrecht Institute was founded. This facility enables labs within and outside of the Hubrecht Institute that lack the know-how and equipment to support their research with single cell transcriptome data.
The Flow Cytometry Core facility offers state of the art instrumentation for routine flow cytometry and cell sorting. The facility is continuously expanding with the newest software and machinery for both sort and analysis capabilities of up to 18 fluorescent parameters, and is committed to meet all of the flow cytometry needs for the Hubrecht Institute, the UMC Utrecht and the Princess Máxima Center.
The Flow Cytometry Core facility is available for:
The Hubrecht Institute has its own animal facility that is home to nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), zebrafish (Danio rerio), frogs (Xenopus laevis) and rodent species such as mice, spiny mice and rats.
Where possible, we replace our animal experiments with in vitro models, such as organoids, reducing the number of laboratory animals. The scientific models that do not allow for full replacement are constantly refined and reduced to keep the number of animal experiments to a minimum. All of our experiments are subject to common Dutch regulation.
In addition to the facilities the Hubrecht Institute has in its own building, Utrecht Life Sciences provides more than 50 shared facilities. These can be used by all researchers that work there. An overview of all available facilities on the Utrecht Science Park is offered on the website of Utrecht Life Sciences.