Immunology workshop to demystify cutting-edge tech

Cornell’s core facilities are home to cutting-edge technologies for next-level immunology research. Still, many students and researchers seek training to read the complex data the new machines spew out.

An Immunoprofiling Workshop – sponsored by the Cornell Center for Immunology, Dec. 13 in Stocking Hall – will feature campus researchers and technology experts who will provide case studies and best practices on various core technologies. Experts will also demystify new instruments and offer guidance on their use.

“With these approaches, immunologists are now able to dissect the contribution of individual immunologic components that make up a global immune response,

providing new insights into fundamental immunology and how the power of immune cells can be harnessed for therapeutic advantage,” said Dr. Gary Koretzky, director of the Cornell Center for Immunology and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Of course, many of the techniques that we will discuss at the workshop are broadly applicable to other biology disciplines and scientists with interests across the life sciences are welcome to attend the workshop.”

The workshop, geared toward immunologists, is open to the Cornell main campus and Weill Cornell Medicine communities; registration is required. Weill Cornell Medicine members will have access via Zoom after registering. 

Presenters will come from the College of Veterinary Medicine; the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College of Arts and Sciences; and Cornell Engineering. They will discuss such revolutionary technology as single-cell sequencing, which allows researchers to do fine-scale cellular-level measurements of gene expression.

“We can generate an expression profile to understand what genes are being used on a cell by cell basis,” said Jen Grenier, director of the Transcriptional Regulation and Expression Facility and one of the workshop organizers. “And now we can do that for thousands of cells in a single sample,” she added.

For example, a blood sample contains a wide variety of different immune cell types. Single-cell sequencing allows researchers to compare which cells are being activated and what genes and proteins are being expressed in individual cells as a result of an immune response.

Lydia Tesfa, a recently hired immunologist and the new director of the Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC) Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) Facility, will introduce herself to the Cornell immunology community through a talk on the future of flow cytometry on campus.

Flow cytometry refers to the use of the FACS technology, which uses antibodies to detect cell surface proteins that characterize different cell types. A recently acquired high-throughput FACS instrument allows researchers to take a sample, detect up to 37 different proteins or targets, and sort cells into different locations based on the signals from those proteins.

Experts will also discuss in vivo imaging for observing live cells in an organism; dual RNA sequencing, which provides genomic profiles of both a host and a pathogen; and the Seahorse instrument in the BRC Imaging Facility, which measures metabolic activity in living cells.

Brian Rudd, associate professor of immunology, will close the event with an overview of how he integrates different technologies in his research program.

Presenters include: Nozomi Nishimura, associate professor of biomedical engineering; Andrew Grimson, associate professor of molecular biology and genetics; Peter Schweitzer, BRC Genomics Facility director; senior research associate Norah Smith and postdoctoral associate Davide Pisu, both in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology; and Jessica Maya, a graduate student in the lab of Maureen Hanson, professor of molecular biology and genetics.

A lunch – with each table hosted by an expert – will give participants a chance to get advice on grant proposals and research projects, including researchers applying for core facilities seed funding. The Center for Immunology is currently accepting applications from researchers on the Ithaca and New York City campuses for $5,000 to $15,000 seed grants to pursue immunology-related research projects that utilize modern high-throughput and genome-scale technologies, with an emphasis on single-cell approaches.

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Abby Butler