By Ellin Kavanagh and Cristy Lytal

With the launch of the Translational Biomedical Imaging Laboratory (TBIL), investigators at USC and The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles moved medical science closer to a day when diseases can be detected before symptoms appear.

TBIL is a unique, interdisciplinary collaboration that combines dynamic equipment, including state-of-the-art microscopes for imaging living specimens and whole organs, with an intellectual infrastructure of optical physicists, computer scientists, translational researchers and clinicians.

Thai Truong, PhD, demonstrates high-speed volumetric imaging at the launch of the Translational Biomedical Imaging Lab. Photo/Cristy Lytal

Thai Truong, PhD, demonstrates high-speed volumetric imaging at the launch of the Translational Biomedical Imaging Lab.
Photo/Cristy Lytal

USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett, JD, underscored the importance of cross-campus collaborations such as TBIL at the launch event held at The Saban Research Institute on Nov. 13, 2013.

“Reaching across campuses, we continue to invest in the intellectual convergence of medicine, chemistry and engineering to improve clinical care for children in our community,” Garrett said. “USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are committed to developing world-class research facilities such as TBIL that provide flexibility for our faculty to collaborate as they address complex health problems.”

Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, voiced his commitment to maximizing the impact of this important collaboration. “My mission is to let all our faculty, our medical students and our postdocs know about this wonderful resource that has been created,” he said. “Imaging at every level is a reinforced theme at USC, with leaders such as TBIL co-director Scott Fraser, Andy McMahon from USC Stem Cell and, of course, Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson of the USC Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics.”

With TBIL resources, investigators can follow the cells of developing organs and see when and how birth defects and other diseases occur — one day providing an early opportunity to intervene and change the outcome before symptoms appear.

Attendees witnessed these capabilities during a tour, which included stops at the “collaboratory” meeting space with high-resolution video and video conferencing; the live imaging lab with a multispectral, multiphoton microscope for living specimens; the high-speed microscopy lab offering rapid, volumetric imaging; the extended-volume imaging lab with an integrated microtome and laser-scanning microscope for large specimens; and the quantitative image analysis and visualization suite with high-resolution workstations for image processing and analysis.

“Imaging has become the Rosetta Stone of research by allowing investigators access to disease at the most basic, molecular level,” said Scott Fraser, PhD, TBIL co-director, provost professor of biological sciences, biomedical engineering and pediatrics, and principal investigator with USC Stem Cell. “TBIL provides equipment and trained talent to accelerate the trajectory of scientific discovery from the bench to the bassinette to the bedside.”

Fraser shares co-directing responsibilities with Rex Moats, PhD, of The Saban Research Institute.

“With the joint recruitment of Dr. Scott Fraser to Children’s Hospital and USC, we have been able to put this amazing imaging resource in place,” said Brent Polk, MD, director of The Saban Research Institute, chairman of pediatrics and vice dean for child health at the Keck School, and executive committee member of USC Stem Cell. “TBIL will help accelerate both the diagnosis and treatment of health issues that have significant impact on children and the adults they will become.”