UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
Currently, five (5) faculty researchers in Department of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria are working on twelve (12) NIH funded projects (with an additional 1 pending and 1 in transfer), as well as projects funded by other national agencies and associations. These research projects focus on Alzheimer’s Disease, neurogenerative disease, neuromuscular disease, alcoholism (especially related to fetal alcohol syndrome and birth defects), and cancer research, specifically in the areas of brain cancer (glioblastoma, medulloblastoma, meningioma and neuroblastoma), prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma and leukemia.
Working at the cellular and molecular levels, these researchers are focused on developing novel and successful therapeutics for devastating diseases, which further underscores the need to clarify the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying these diseases. Immuno-histochemistry performed by conventional microscopy lacks the imaging ability of an inverted confocal microscope. Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy is far superior and will enable researchers to determine and visually verify the receptors and ligands, the molecular structures, on cell surfaces. For Alzheimer Disease researchers, inverted confocal microscopy is essential to clarify the process by which new nerve cells are generated. Further, the imaging of extracellular matrix interactions and intra cellular changes would pave the way for better targeted therapies. Confocal microscopy offers several advantages over conventional optical microscopy, including controllable depth of field, the elimination of image degrading out-of-focus information, and the ability to collect serial optical sections from thick specimens. The most important feature of a confocal microscope is the capability of isolating and collecting a plane of focus from within a sample, thus eliminating the out of focus "haze" normally seen with a fluorescent sample. Fine detail is often obscured by the haze and cannot be detected in a non-confocal, fluorescent microscope. Moreover, confocal microscopy offers the ability to capture optical slices of cells which allows the researcher to capture a virtually unlimited listing of cell types. The ability of a confocal microscope to generate optical sections without physically slicing or damaging the specimen is most valuable in complex 3-dimensional tissues.