Faculty at Illinois State University have received a $316,778 Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant from the National Science Foundation. The highly competitive MRI grant program received hundreds of grant proposals from across the country and only funded the top 16 percent of the applications.

Led by Professor Laura Vogel and co-Pls Professors Rachel Bowden, Nathan Mortimer, and Ben Sadd, researchers at ISU have acquired a flow cytometer cell sorter. This instrument is a powerful discovery tool that will enable research that was previously not possible at ISU. A mixture of cells, or particles, can be passed though the instrument’s lasers where rare cells can be purified out and collected at extremely high speed. These isolated particles can then be used for further studies. The instrument can examine such parameters as cell morphology, surface and intracellular protein expression, gene expression, and cellular physiology. Both faculty and students will benefit from this instrument and will use it for their research.

Students in several courses will learn how to use the cell sorter. For many health sciences professions, this is a commonly used clinical instrument, important for diagnosis of diseases. Health Sciences Professor Beverly Barham, Ph.D., says there will be a definite advantage for Health Sciences students to observe a working flow cytometer and understand the various applications before they leave campus.

Those working with the flow cytometer cell sorter in the School of Biological Sciences include many different research avenues.

Professor Laura Vogel will study aging and the immune system. Professors Rachel Bowden and Laura Vogel will study reptile immunity and isolate B lymphocytes from turtles. Assistant Professor Nathan Mortimer will study immune cell signaling using the fruit fly as a model. Assistant Professor Ben Sadd will study bumblebee disease and immunity by high speed sorting trypanosome parasites in bumblebees. Associate Professor Diane Byers will research quantification and purification of pollen grains. Professor Steve Juliano will study analysis and separation of insect cell populations. Assistant Professor Alysia Motimer will sort and purify specific populations of neurons from the Drosophila brain. Professor Scott Sakaluk and Research Professor Charles Thompson will study cell sorting of avian blood cell populations.

This instrument will also benefit the Department of Chemistry. Professor Marge Jones will observe cell sorting and analysis of Leishmania parasites, while Assistant Professor Chris Weitzel will study cell cycle analysis of the microbe Sulfolubus.