New Confocal Microscope Aids Research At Utsd

11 Aug 2015
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Endodontics resident Kian Nikdel, DDS, briefly explains how the School of Dentistry’s new confocal microscope works. Endodontics resident Kian Nikdel, DDS, briefly explains how the School of Dentistry’s new confocal microscope works. Photo by Ke’ara Hunt.

A new confocal microscope system at The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston is advancing biological imaging by allowing researchers to examine even thick-tissue specimens in a quick and cost-effective way.

The Nikon C2+ confocal microscope arrived earlier this year and underwent a lengthy customization process that is now complete. The microscope resides in the Research Office laboratory on the fourth floor of the UT Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building, adjacent to the School of Dentistry.

Researchers in the Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences are already putting the new equipment to good use.

Assistant Professor Ransome V. van der Hoeven, PhD, employs the confocal microscope in his study of the molecular mechanisms by which the opportunistic pathogen E. faeca’lis can survive and cause persistent secondary endodontic infections. Even after long periods of starvation, the bacterium can grow as a mono-infection in the absence of other microorganisms in the root canal system.

The confocal microscope can scan multiple thin areas of the sample bacterium, then digitally combine the scans to create a three-dimensional image.

“It’s almost like a CT scan,” said Endodontics Resident Kian Nikdel, DDS, who described the new microscope as a very useful tool and “a great addition to what we are doing” in research at UTSD.

In his research in the immunology of cells and molecules, Professor Yahuan Lou, PhD, appreciates the confocal microscope’s precise imaging. “You can see the specific changes without having to guess or estimate,” he said.

Having access to a confocal microscope system allows UTSD researchers to do procedures that were previously too difficult or time-consuming, including time-lapse microscopy, observing three-dimensional structures such as biofilms, or viewing the colocalization of protein.

With the confocal microscope, “We’re capable of integrating all kinds of information from the images,” said Assistant Professor Junichi Iwata, DDS, PhD. “We’ve just started to enjoy this new innovative tool, and the future of research is clear at UTSD.”

For more information about the confocal microscope, contact Research Coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at 713-486-4484.

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