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Core Facility Descriptions

Biomolecular NMR

The Macromolecular Structure Shared Resource (MSSR) is comprised of the X-ray crystallography (X-ray) and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) laboratories. X-ray crystallography and NMR are highly complementary methods for elucidating three-dimensional structures and for studying macromolecular interactions. Together, they provide Cancer Center members with comprehensive methodologies to understand how cancer-related biological macromolecules function in normal and diseased states at the molecular level. Cancer Center investigators will be advised and assisted in utilizing these sophisticated technologies to determine structures of cancer-related biological macromolecules and to investigate their interactions with other macromolecules and with potential therapeutic agents by the Directors of the X-ray and NMR laboratories, P. John Hart, PhD and Andrew P. Hinck, PhD, respectively. The X-ray component of the MSSR includes an Art Robbins crystallization robot and two state-of-the-art Rigaku-MSSR X-ray data collection systems. The instrumentation provides full capabilities for conducting all modern X-ray diffraction experiments and is suitable for obtaining high quality three-dimensional structures of proteins, nucleic acids and their complexes. The NMR component of the MSSR includes state-of-the-art Bruker spectrometers equipped with high sensitivity cryoprobes operating at 500, 600, and 700 MHz. The instrumentation provides full capabilities for conducting modern NMR experiments with 15N, 13C, and 2H labeled macromolecules and is suitable for obtaining three-dimensional solution structures and investigating interactions with other macromolecules and potential therapeutic agents. The MSSR is made accessible to the broader Cancer Center Membership by PhD-trained technical managers, Alex Taylor, PhD, and Udayar Ilangovan, PhD, for the X-ray and NMR laboratories, respectively, who provide guidance at each step in the process, from sample preparation to interpretation and presentation of results. The MSSR provides a comprehensive array of methodologies with which to visualize and functionally characterize cancer-related biological macromolecules.

The key to determining the function of a molecule and how it is altered by mutation is facilitated by elucidating the higher level structure. The Macromolecular Structure Shared Resource provides NMR and X-ray crystallography capabilities to cancer center members. This information obtained by this shared resource provides essential information not only for basic research, but also for translational applications.

Flow Cytometry

The Institutional Flow Cytometry Core is located in an 800-sq.ft laboratory (room 5.044V) in the UTHSCSA Medical School building.  The facility operates two flow analyzers, one cell sorter, and two computer stations dedicated to flow cytometry data analysis. The analyzers include a 3-laser (405nm, 488nm, 633nm), 8-color LSR-II and a 2-laser (488nm, 633nm), 4-color FACSCalibur. The sorter is a 3-laser (405nm, 488nm, 633nm), 9-color FACSAria, which will be upgraded to a 5-laser (375nm, 405nm, 488nm, 561nm, 633nm), 13-color sorter by December 2010. The FACSAria has the aerosol management unit, temperature control unit, and the ability to sort into 96 well plates. To minimize contamination of sterile samples, the FACSAria is housed in its own room. Office space encompasses about 15% of the core’s total space. The core has provided research services for 23 years, and it was designated an institutional core facility in December 2000. It currently serves about 80 users, of which 80% are Cancer Center investigators. The Flow Cytometry Core also receives financial assistance from the Cancer Center’s P30 grant.

The Flow Cytometry Core is a biohazard safety level 2 (BSL-2) facility, so the core can sort all NIH/CDC designated biohazard 2 agents which include primary human cells and cell lines, transfected cell lines, and live cells containing known level-2 pathogens. All core personnel are trained and certified in proper BSL-2 safety procedures. This includes handling samples, proper personal protective equipment, transportation and disposition of specimens.

The Flow Cytometry Core is operated and managed by three experienced persons. Dr. Vivienne Rebel is the Chief Scientific Officer, and uses her 18 years of experience with FACS technology to advise the Flow Cytometry Core on the latest flow cytometry technology so that state-of-the-art services are available to the users. She advises the core in policies and plays in instrumental role in the Flow Cytometry Core planning. She is also available for consultation with users about complicated FACS sorting experiments. Dr. Benjamin J. Daniel serves as the technical/assistant director and oversees the daily operation of the core. He has over 10 years of flow cytometry experience in the immunological field. He was certified as a BD FACSAria operator in the spring of 2006. He also has >5 years experience using a LSR-II (10 color) and >10 years experience operating a FACSCalibur and has collectively trained >40 persons to operate and maintain these instruments. He is an expert in experimental design and data analysis pertaining to flow cytometry. Mrs. Karla Gorena has over four years of flow cytometry experience and attended the BD FACSAria operator’s course in October 2007. Since then, she has remained the primary operator in the Flow Cytometry Core.

Genomics

The mission of the Genomics Core is to provide state-of-the-art genomic services including genotyping and cell banking to investigators from UTHSCSA, CTRC and the local scientific community in an economical and timely manner. The Genomics Shared Resource provides state-of-the-art services to the members of the Cancer Center by providing access to two complementary platforms, the Illumina platform, used for primarily for high-throughput genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms, and the Agilent Technologies platform, used primarily for array comparative genomic hybridization and expression microarray analysis. In addition to these genomic services, the shared resource offers Cancer Center members assistance in automated nucleic acid isolation, real-time quantitative PCR, and sample banking. The banking of samples range from isolating DNA, processing blood specimens, establishing lymphoblastoid cell lines and long term storage of samples.  The shared resource has been reorganized with a single overall coordinator and two co-directors, one per platform. All three have extensive experience in genomics and provide Cancer Center members with consulting services to assist in experimental design. This shared resource combines two previous funded cancer center shared resources, the Cytogenetic and Genetics Shared Resource and the Microarray Shared Resource.

A genomic approach to cancer research is key to the discovery of new biomarkers that can be applied to the diagnosis and staging of cancer. The Genomics Shared Resource provides two high throughput platforms to aid the researcher in genomic analyses.

•Illumina GoldenGate custom multiplex SNP genotyping (48-plex to 1,536-plex)

•Illumina BeadChip Infinium genotyping (custom and catalog products)

•Taqman genotyping

•Quantitative Real-time PCR

•Illumina Whole Genome Gene Expression (human, mouse and rat)

 

Macromolecular Interactions

Our mission is to provide researchers with state-of-the art capabilities for the characterization of protein-protein, protein-lipid, protein-nucleic acid and protein-small ligand interactions. Our facility provides for the complete characterization of a macromolecular interaction in solution. This includes a description of the kinetics, thermodynamics and assembly state of the interaction.  An unusal strength of our facility is that access to all three complementary technologies are available in a single facility.

The Macromolecular Interactions Shared Resource provides Cancer Center researchers with state-of-the art capabilities for the characterization of protein-protein, protein-lipid, protein-nucleic acid and protein-small molecule interactions. The facility provides resources for the complete characterization of macromolecular interactions in solution. This includes a description of the kinetics, thermodynamics and assembly state of the interaction. The strengths of surface plasmon resonance (SPR) include the determination of binding kinetics and equilibria, the determination of active protein concentrations, assay development and drug screening, and binding site and epitope mapping. The strengths of analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) include the ability to characterize distributions of molecular weight and degree of globularity for macromolecular mixtures simultaneously, and to determine the partial concentration of individual solutes, aiding in the study of conformational changes and sample composition, solution molecular mass, stoichiometry of assembled complexes, and providing rigorous thermodynamics for self-associating systems. Static and dynamic light scattering (LS) are useful tools in the study of the size and size distribution of cells, viruses, micelles, and macromolecules such as proteins, macromolecular assemblies, polysaccharides, and nucleic acids. LS is also useful for the kinetic study of macromolecular assembly and disassembly in real time. By having all of these biophysical tools available in a single shared resource facility, we are able to offer our Cancer Center researchers an extraordinarily high level of rigor and sophistication for the study of the macromolecular complexes and drug targets that have become such an important part of modern cancer research.

The Macromolecular Interactions Shared Resource provides state-of-the-art resources to members of the Cancer Center enabling the solution state analysis of biological macromolecules that play critical roles in cancer from the basic science level through drug discovery and development.

Mass Spectrometry

The Mass Spectrometry Shared Resource offers a wide range of analytical capabilities to support the needs of investigators and other researchers at UTHSCSA and in the nearby community. Mass spectrometry instrumentation is as follows:  Thermo Fisher LTQ ion trap mass spectrometer used in conjunction with an Eksigent NanoLC 2D HPLC system to perform nanospray HPLC-ESI-MSn analyses; Thermo Fisher Quantum-AM triple quadrupole mass spectrometer used with a Michrom BioResources Paradigm MS4 micro HPLC system; Thermo Fisher LCQ ion trap mass spectrometer used in conjunction with a Michrom BioResources Paradigm MS4 micro HPLC system; Applied Biosystems Voyager DE-STR matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI-TOF/MS); Thermo Fisher DSQ quadrupole mass spectrometer which is able to perform GC/MS and direct probe analyses using electron impact and chemical ionization with positive and negative ion detection. A Thermo Fisher LTQ-Orbitrap Velos-H/ETD mass spectrometer and Eksigent NanoLC Ultra-2D HPLC system will be installed in Fall 2009. In addition to the mass spectrometers, devices that greatly facilitate protein characterization are available in the facility, including an imager, densitometer, gel spotcutter and PDQuest gel analysis software (all from Bio-Rad) and SameSpots gel analysis software from Nonlinear Dynamics. The major protein analysis services provided include molecular mass determination, protein identification from solution or polyacrylamide gel, sequence characterization, elucidation of sites of post-translational modification, and gel electrophoresis. Detection limits in the sub-picomole range are routinely obtained, making it possible to characterize proteins and peptides isolated from biological samples. Quantitative analysis of lipids and intermediary metabolites by GC/MS is also performed on a regular basis.

MicroCT

Our mission is to advance the research of UTHSCSA and regional researchers interested in high-resolution 3D imaging. Micro-computed tomography is an x-ray imaging technique introduced to orthopedics in the late 1980’s by Layton (Layton et al., 1988) and Feldkamp (Feldkamp et al., 1989).  Since then, this technology has advanced greatly, beginning with systems that occupied entire rooms and were limited to 50 μm nominal resolutions to desktop systems (Rüegsegger et al., 1996) that can now acquire 1 micron and sub-micron data (Salmon, 2009).  With these data, it is possible to quantitatively and accurately analyze the 3D structure of bone and mineral (Fajardo et al., 2002).  This imaging method is now a standard analysis in studies of aging, disease, tissue engineering, and therapeutics as they pertain to bone and mineral.

Nucleic Acids

Instituted as a part of the Department of Microbiology, the Center for Advanced DNA Technology's first funding was obtained from monies from the Permanent University Fund Allocation to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences through the Health Science Center in 1989. Monies by way of salaries, equipment, and space were obtained from the Department of Microbiology. At the time of initial funding, automated DNA sequencing services were not available to researchers at the Health Science Center. Custom DNA synthesis was available through the polymer core in the Department of Biochemistry, however, services were limited and relatively expensive. The new DNA Center provided a full range of synthesis services including base substitution and end-labeling. Some original equipment purchased at inception remains in service at this time. Additional equipment has been added to the lab throughout a decade of service through user fees, grant support, support from the Department of Microbiology, reagent purchase plans through equipment manufactures, and beta-site testing services performed in collaboration with equipment manufactures.

Through the allocation of state funds in 2000, the Core acquired two ABI 3100 Genetic analyzers, an ABI 3900 High-Throughput DNA Synthesizer, and a Beckman Biomek FX robotic workstation. A Bioautomation MerMade-6 Synthesizer was acquired in 2005, and an upgrade of the genetic analyzers to 3130xl models was accomplished in 2006 to further increase productivity. The latest advanced high-throughput instrumentation has elevated the Core's capabilities extensively, enabling for lower user costs, higher quality products, and faster service.

Presently identified as the Nucleic Acids Core Facility (NACF), the lab continues to support the needs of researchers at the Health Science Center, as well as those at institutions in the surrounding area. Under the direction of Brian L. Wickes, PhD, the NACF offers automated DNA sequencing with data analysis & primer design, fragment analysis services, custom DNA synthesis, genome project services, gene amplification services, and robotic application custom projects.

Optical Imaging

The Optical Imaging Shared Resource provides ongoing service to investigators by providing access to state-of-the-art optical imaging equipment, including multiparameter digital imaging workstations, confocal microscopes, and multiphoton microscopes. Highly experienced personnel in the shared resource are available to consult with users of the facility regarding the appropriate instrumentation or imaging technique for their specific needs. Advice on experimental design is offered, including recommendations on specimen preparation and probe selection. Users are initially introduced to the equipment and assisted in feasibility studies. Once feasibility is demonstrated, users are trained by the staff to be primary operators of the instrumentation. Once trained, users have access to the facility on an as-needed basis following reservation of instrument time. Alternatively, assistance with image acquisition, analysis, and processing are also offered as a service of the shared resource.

High-end instrumentation for acquisition and analysis of optical data is expensive and requires continued maintenance and improvements. The necessary commitment to this technology is often difficult to maintain within individual laboratories, especially when optical imaging is not a major focus for the laboratory.  Therefore, the Optical Imaging Shared Resource fills a critical need of Cancer Center investigators by offering access to state-of-the-art technology for imaging of living cells, tissues, and animals; consultation, education and assistance regarding the theory and application of optical imaging techniques; and technical advice on specimen preparation techniques and probe selection.

X-ray Crystallography

The mission of the X-ray Crystallography Core Laboratory is to provide state-of-the-art resources to researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and to external users, enabling the detailed 3-D analyses of biological macromolecules that play important roles in human health. This is a full service core in that it not only offers access to sophisticated equipment and technologies but also offers advice and technical assistance in sample preparation. Services are also provided to investigators without funding to facilitate the development of pilot data for new potentially fundable projects, as core resources permit.

The X-ray Crystallography Core Laboratory utilizes 14 commercial screens containing 96 crystallization reagents.  In a “full screen,” each commercial screen is set up at two temperatures (22°C and 4°C) with proteins of interest to identify initial crystallization conditions.  X-ray Core Users will typically provide 700 ml of a 5-20 mg/ml protein preparation to complete a full screen.

Next-Generation Sequencing and Functional Genomics

The field of functional genomics is in a state of transition, ushered in by the powerful technological capabilities of next-generation sequencing. Within this same environment, microarray technologies continue to be powerful tools that have more standardized and efficient methods for data analysis. Furthermore, the price per sample for the analysis has dropped substantially in recent years for both technologies. As UTHSCSA continues to build capabilities in these technological areas, it is critical to understand what the current and future needs of the faculty will be.

Agilent Microarray

The Microarray Core Facility is operated as a full service facility and is therefore able to provide experimental handling and support for all aspects of the Agilent microarray platform. These services include evaluation of nucleic acid quality, labeling of samples with modified nucleotides (cy dyes), microarray hybridization, microarray scanning, feature extraction and annotation of scanned images. Agilent microarrays that are supported in the core facility offer a diverse set of tools for investigators that includes measuring gene and miRNA expression levels, DNA copy number profiling, location analysis of DNA binding proteins, and defining DNA methylation status. In addition to catalog microarrays that are available for these applications, the Agilent platform offers significant flexibility in the design and printing of customized microarrays.

 

Biostatistics/Study Design

One of the missions of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB) is to provide consulting services to assist University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio faculty, staff and trainees in the planning, conducting and reporting of biomedical research investigations. Significant resources and infrastructure have been developed within the Department to support this mission. Consultative services are focused in several key areas including: study design, statistical planning, data management, statistical analysis and reporting. Collectively, the provision of these services requires diverse domain expertise represented by the disciplines of epidemiology, biostatistics and biomedical informatics. In addition, these services reflect support not only for the research mission of the University but also for the educational mission by supporting the training of UT Health Science Center faculty, staff and students in the conduct of biomedical research.

Research Imaging Institute

The Research Imaging Institute (RII) has a total of 28,000 sq ft of space that houses the laboratories, computing facilities, and offices.

Laboratory:  Human imaging suites (MRI, PET and TMS) are located on the first floor of the RII in a 10,000 sq ft area. Five MRI scanner suites (2 human and 3 animal – 2 scheduled for installation in 2008) are located on the first floor of the RII. The TMS laboratory (1 room), the PET area including rodent microPET (five rooms), one cyclotron (2 rooms), and the radiochemistry area (2 rooms) are also located on the first floor. The Biomedical Image Analysis Division (BIAD) (ten rooms), speech motor lab with sound booth (2 rooms), and ERP lab with sound booth (2 rooms) are on the second floor of the RII. A 5,000 sq ft addition that will house a 2nd cyclotron and additional radiochemistry laboratories was recently completed.

Clinical:  Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies are carried out in the TMS laboratory on the 1st floor. Neurocognitive assessments are carried out in 3 dedicated rooms on the 1st floor. Speech and motor assessments are carried out in a 800 sq ft laboratory on the 2nd floor.

Animal:  A 10,000 sq ft laboratory animal facility is located on the first floor of the RII. This facility includes two MRI imaging suites, three large primate rooms, five preparation and recovery rooms, seven small animal rooms and two complete surgical suites.

Computer:  The RII’s Biomedical Image Analysis Division (BIAD) provides computational support to all research projects and faculty. This division employs a technical director for computing systems, one faculty level programmer, two senior level programmers, one junior lever programmer, two consultants, and 3 system administrators. Three common-use rooms are available for researchers to analyze data, a server and HPC support area, and offices for staff and faculty. Each lab is equipped with computers appropriate with their applications. See below for major equipment list.

The Research Imaging Institute (RII) is a department-level entity within the UTHSCSA. The mission of the RII is to develop non-invasive imaging and measurement methods and to apply these methods to basic and clinical research. The RII was created as a “Special Project of the University of Texas”, by an act of the State Legislature and receives annual infrastructure support from the State. The RII is composed of six divisions: 1) the Positron Emission Tomography Division; 2) the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Division; 3) the Translational Imaging Division; 4) the Human Electrophysiology Division (including the TMS and ERP laboratories); 5) the Biomedical Image Analysis Division; 6) and the Human Performance.

Small Animal Imaging

Small animal imaging facility at GCCRI has been established for facilitating anatomic and molecular multi-modality imaging to enhance the study of cell migration and intracellular signaling in live animals, tissue samples and cell cultures. Currently the facility has a small animal computed tomography (microCT) scanner, an Optical Scanner, a High-Frequency Ultrasound. At this time the facility offers interested Investigators opportunity to scan sacrificed animals and tissue samples. Live animal scans are possible for investigators with appropriate IACUC protocols.

Protein Expression and Purification Resource

The protein production core facility helps to produce highly purified recombinant proteins for functional and structural studies. At this point, we mainly use bacteria as the expression host. In the future, other systems such as yeast, insect and mammalian cells shall also be available.

For protein production in E. coli, different conditions (e.g., induction temperature, IPTG concentration and incubation time) will be tested and various strategies will be used to achieve optimal expression and keep the target protein in the soluble portion. The expressed target protein will be first purified using affinity chromatography. Other purification methods (e.g., ion exchange and size exclusion chromatography) will be applied if deemed necessary. Protein is normally expressed in 1-5 L scale and milligrams of final purified protein can be expected.

Shared Resource for Neurodegenerative Models

This research facility provides expert neurosurgical procedures as well as general surgical procedures and training to research investigators at the UTHSCSA campuses and the neighboring science community.

Animal models are an essential tool for scientists to use to unlock doors to answer important medical questions and provide novel surgical interventions along with pharmaceutical therapies. In addition to the high expense of purchasing the surgical equipment necessary to properly perform these experiments, these procedures are often tedious to learn and take months to obtain consistent data.

The Shared Resource for Neurodegenerative Models fills an essential need of UTHSCSA Investigators and the neighboring science community by offering:

•Neurosurgical and General animal surgery procedures

•Access to expensive medical/surgical equipment and facilities

•Training to assist investigators interested in establishing their own animal surgery protocol

•Consultation for preparing IACUC and grant applications

•Collaboration

Bioinformatics

DEB Information Systems (IS) staff provides support to investigators through specialized data management and software development services. The specialized nature of their work in the clinical research arena assures that IS staff are: 1) well versed with industry-standard regulatory standard techniques and procedures; 2) have met specialized local, state, and federal training requirements; and 3) ensure software and data applications conform to the necessary legal requirements. Informatics services fall into “Data Management” and “Software Development” categories.

Data Management is the development and execution of architectures, policies, practices and procedures that properly manage the full data lifecycle needs of a project, protocol, system, or enterprise.

Software Development is the translation of an investigator-need into a software solution and product. The software development process is the same for all projects; however, the effort and its associated financial costs are proportional to the scope and scale of the project. With our experienced leadership, we assign the appropriate DEB IS staff to specific components of projects. The DEB software development process is not a one size fits all process. We encompass software engineering combined with understanding the research in order to develop computer software products.

Computational Biology Initiative

The Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Initiative (CBBI) provides computational infrastructure, bioinformatics expertise, and interdisciplinary research to manage, distribute complex data sets, develop and perform bioinformatics tasks and statistical analyses in the area of genomics and systems biology. The CBBI aims to establish Greehey CCRI, as well as UT Health Science Center, and its researchers as competitive leaders in the application of new biomedical technologies and computational methods to the varieties of biomedical study. With all their faculty members from Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB), The CBBI also provides a wide range of biostatistical assistance.

Clinical Reference Laboratories

South Texas Reference Laboratories (STRL) provide a wide range of support services for faculty and staff of the Health Science Center as well as services to outside entities on a fee-for-service basis. We offer both technical services and diagnostic interpretation as requested by the client. Our services include:

Cytogenetics Laboratory: All tissue types including Amniotic Fluid, Chorionic Villi, Products of Conception, Blood, Bone Marrow, Effusions, Skin Biopsy, Solid Tumors or Lymph Nodes, etc., Our full-service clinical & molecular cytogenetics laboratory has the capability to perform routine karyotyping (G-banding), as well as Fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) studies for prenatal and most cancer related conditions. The laboratory may also provide karyotyping or FISH analysis for research projects.

Electron Microscopy Laboratory is a full service facility that provides technical and professional support for patient care and research studies that require transmission and scanning electron microscopy.

Fungus Testing Laboratory: Fungal identification, antifungal susceptibility testing of yeasts and moulds, measurement of levels of antifungal agents in biological tissues and fluids, molecular identification and strain relatedness studies, clinical trials, environmental sampling analysis, and drug discovery research.

Flow Cytometry Laboratory: Immunophenotypic analysis by multiparameter flow cytometry which is useful in the diagnosis/classification of acute leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the detection of residual leukemia/lymphoma following therapy. Also, immunodeficiency panels, CD34 enumeration and detection of hemoglobin F in feto-maternal hemorrhage. Results are reported within 24-48 hours of receiving the sample.

Histopathology Laboratory: Oral, Renal and Skin Biopsy services utilizing routine histology, special stains and immunoflourescence. The laboratory also provides Immunohistochemistry, Muscle histochemistry, Insitu-hybridization, FISH and ELISA studies.

Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory: development and performance of molecular diagnostic test for nucleic acid targets found in a variety of settings in medicine. The primary focus of the laboratory is hematopathology; a selection of genetic and infectious disease tests are also performed. Results of PML-RAR alpha can be reported within 24-48 hours of receiving samples.

CLIA Certificate

CAP Certificate

Fluoroscopy or C-arm

Our mission is to give support to research procedures requiring live X-ray and sequence images, through C-Arm imaging. The C-Arm, or Flouroscope, used in medical settings is a highly complex piece of equipment using X-rays to produce “live” image feed, typically displayed on a TV or computer monitor. The overall system consists of a lower x-ray dose to the patient, resulting from a magnification of the intensity produced by the output image that enables the viewer to easily see the structure of the object being examined. This imaging system is used in most radiology departments as “screening rooms.” Smaller in design than a fixed image intensifier, mobile screening units are becoming more and more powerful. This has enabled more advanced and technical procedures to be carried out in confined locations. In a hospital setting there a multiple used for this type of imaging.

Southwest National Primate Research Center

Our mission is to improve the health of our global community through innovative biomedical research with nonhuman primates. In 1999, the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) became the first new NCRR-funded National Primate Research Center (NPRC) in over 35 years. The SNPRC brings a number of unique strengths to the NPRC program, stemming from a long, productive history of nonhuman primate research at its host institution, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed). These unique strengths include the world’s largest captive baboon population, the world’s largest and best-characterized pedigreed primate population, the world’s largest group of geneticists committed to research with and management of captive nonhuman primates, one of the largest nonhuman primate censuses of any NPRC, the largest chimpanzee census of any NRPC, the capacity for nonhuman primate studies in Biocontainment Level 4, and a veterinary technical staff experienced in the management and use of nonhuman primates ranging from chimpanzees to marmosets.

We provide broad services in primate research to the southwestern region of the country, and serve the entire country with specialized technologies, capabilities, and primate resources, many of which are unique to the SNPRC. We provide services and conduct technical procedures requested by outside investigators participating in collaborative projects.

Baboons, SPF Indian-origin rhesus macaques, and marmosets are often available from our breeding colonies to sell to outside investigators who want to conduct research with them at the SNPRC. Most of the rhesus macaques are produced under support of an NIH grant aimed at providing these animals for AIDS-related research, although other research uses of this species also are possible. Baboons are generally available for sale and removal to other research facilities, and rhesus macaques and marmosets are occasionally available for sale.

Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering faculty has expertise in a range of technical areas that includes roadway infrastructure design, materials and management, hydraulic structures, structural composites, environmental remediation, geo-environmental modeling and structural composites analysis.  Funding sources include the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Recent project examples include:  Enhanced Short-term Hydrometeorological Forecasting,  Evaluation of a System to Measure Seal Coat Technology, Enhancement of the Full Cost Transportation Model (MODECOST) and Infrastructure for a Statewide Scour and Road-Submergence Warning System.

CEE faculty works closely with the Center for Water Research http://www.utsa.edu/water/ and other faculty from the UTSA College of Sciences to carry our research under the new Doctoral program in Environmental Science and Engineering.

Department of Clinical Investigator Research Lab

The mission of the Department of Clinical Investigation (DCI) is to promote, coordinate, support and oversee organized scientific inquiry in basic laboratory and clinical research using both animal and human subjects. This includes:

1. Promoting and ensuring the highest level of professional standards in the conduct of research.

2. Providing a review body for evaluation of research proposals involving human subjects conducted at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), within the Southern Regional Medical Command (SRMC), at the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), and the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Center and School and in accordance with federal law and military regulations.

3. Supporting graduate and continuing medical education.

4. Providing guidance and support for research in basic and clinical sciences.

5. Assisting in the professional growth and development of the staff.

6. Providing an academic milieu conducive to the training and retention of competent staff personnel and recruitment of new personnel.

7. Fostering an atmosphere of scientific inquiry consistent with the dynamic nature of the health sciences.

8. Supporting a high professional standard and accreditation of advanced health programs.

9. Providing assistance in locating funding for research.

Nathan Shock Aging Animal and Longevity Assessment Core

The Aging Animal and Longevity Assessment Core plays a crucial role in helping investigators establish whether aging has been altered in their animal models.  If lifespan is extended, strong evidence is provided that the aging process has been influenced by the intervention under study.  However, increased lifespan alone is insufficient to indicate broad anti-aging actions and therefore must be complemented by other measures. These are provided by the Healthspan and Functional Assessment Core and the Pathology Core, as well as specific measurements made by investigators testing their own hypotheses concerning aging processes.

The Aging Animal and Longevity and Assessment Core maintains and monitors aging colonies of new and established rodent models, determines longevity, and distributes these animals to investigators for basic research on aging. Services include:

•Breed and maintain new and established rodent models to provide investigators with resources to study the mechanisms of aging and age-related disease processes;

•Conduct lifespan studies of genetically, nutritionally or pharmacologically manipulated models according to the requirements of investigators funded by the NIA and other granting sources;

•Provide animal models of exceptional biogerontological interest for baseline pilot studies;

•Provide diets containing rapamycin and other drugs to the biogerontological community at large;

•Educate and advise faculty, fellows and students in animal husbandry and experimental design specific to the use of animals in aging research.

Nathan Shock Oxidative Damage and Mitochondrial Function Core

Compromised mitochondrial function and accumulation of oxidative damage to cell components with age have been proposed as primary factors underlying age-associated alterations in physiologic function and pathology.

The Oxidative Damage and Mitochondrial Function Core provides investigators with reliable and sensitive methods to measure markers of oxidative damage in lipids, protein, and DNA in biological samples and reliable, standardized, state-of-the-art assays of mitochondrial function. Many of these assays utilize expensive and sophisticated equipment that require significant expertise for performance and maintenance. Thus, a primary strength of the Core is our ability to offer precise, reproducible and standardized assays conducted by experienced Core personnel using sophisticated equipment that may not be readily available in an individual investigator's laboratory. Services include:

•Measurement of F2-isoprostanes, a marker of lipid peroxidation in plasma, tissues, or urine by GC-MS.

•Measurement of oxidative damage to DNA using HPLC-based analysis of oxo-8dG.

•Measurements of oxidative damage and modification to proteins using three complementary sets of sensitive and reliable assays for quantitative assessments of the oxidation states of proteins (i) protein carbonylation (ii) disulfide formation, and (iii) alteration of protein surface hydrophobicity.

•Assays of mitochondrial function include the use of direct, sensitive measurements of H2O2release from isolated mitochondria, mitochondrial superoxide generation using EPR, and mitochondrial function assays in cells using a relatively new technology provided by Seahorse Biosciences that allows direct measurement of mitochondrial function in cells without requiring isolation of mitochondria.

Another important function of the Core is to provide consultation and education on the methodology and interpretation of the available assays. The Core leaders also will assist investigators in obtaining preliminary data for grant applications, help investigators with manuscript preparation, and offer opportunities to be trained in the proper execution of the assays.

Nathan Shock Pathology Core

To determine the impact of an experimental intervention on aging, it is essential that an investigator have knowledge of how the intervention alters the pathological lesions that occur with age. Age-related pathology increases exponentially with advancing age and is largely responsible for age-related morbidity as well as mortality. Pathological information provides investigators with insight into the potential biological/molecular mechanisms of the intervention under study.  Also, the pathological assessment of old animals is necessary to help investigators determine whether the changes in physiological/biochemical parameters measured are associated with or are independent of underlying pathological conditions. Services include:

•Conduct comprehensive end-of-life and cross-sectional pathological analyses of established and new rodent models and other species in the aging colonies maintained by the Aging Animal and Longevity Assessment Core.

•Conduct quantitative morphometric analyses of the tissues/organs of transgenic rodents and their control littermates examined by 3D and 2D image analyses.

•Develop a comprehensive database of histopathologic findings as a resource for trend analyses by bioinformatics personnel, providing basic pathological information to new investigations and develop a tissue archive by collecting and storing tissue samples to provide a resource for the analysis of samples by special request and for new morphological research.

In addition, the Pathology Core offers assistance to faculty and students who are interested in conducting basic biological animal research in aging with the pathological analyses needed for grant applications and manuscript preparation.

Nathan Shock Research Development Core

The Research Development Core seeks to expand the scope of research in the basic biology of aging at the UTHSCSA and other institutions in the San community and to assist in the development of investigators new to the field of aging research for the future needs of biological gerontology.

To achieve these goals, the Core administers the Pilot Grant Program and the Emerging Technologies Program and coordinates mentoring activities for junior or new investigators to the field of aging research.

The Core provides funds and other resources that allow investigators to carry out pilot studies and subsequently compete successfully for funding from the National Institute on Aging and other national agencies that fund aging research. Each year, the Core funds pilot projects in the basic biomedical sciences at a level of up to $50,000 per year that may be renewable for a second year.

The Research Development Core also supports faculty who wish to incorporate new technologies into their research in the basic biology of aging through the Core's newly developed Emerging Technologies Program.

Nathan Shock Healthspan and Functional Assessment Core

The purpose of the Healthspan and Functional Assessment Core is to provide researchers in aging with measures of the functional status of animal models of aging by assessing the performance of an array of organs and physiological systems.  Emphasis is on functions known to be altered with age or in age-related diseases and that may be important to health. Services include:

•Provide assessments of endocrine/metabolic function and body composition/structure: The Core offers equipment and expertise in measuring resting and total metabolic rates, total activity, temporal patterns of activity and metabolism, and body composition.

•Provide investigators with the tools and expertise to measure a variety of cardiac parameters in mice using our state-of-the-artVevo 770™ High-Resolution in vivo Imaging System (Visual Sonics) and other non-invasive assessments of systolic and diastolic function in mice using techniques such as echocardiography.

•Provide tests of locomotor behavior and cognitive health using methods to evaluate balance and coordination, gait, grip strength, neuropathy, as well as various procedures to measure cognitive ability and decline in mice.

An additional major function of the Healthspan and Functional Assessment Core is to provide the appropriate expertise and education on the use of Core tools both to help investigators gather preliminary data for grant applications and to help investigators with manuscript preparation.

Nathan Shock Comparative Biology of Aging Core

Certain processes of life are inherently destructive.  As a consequence, age-related deterioration of physiological function is virtually ubiquitous among animals.  However, nature has repeatedly produced species with both exceptional resistance, and exceptional susceptibility, to these destructive processes.  The former live and remain healthy for a long time, the latter a short time. We call these "species of exceptional biogerontological interest" (EBI species), because of their potential to inform us about both the identity and nature of the destructive processes that cause senescence as well as protective mechanisms of exceptional resistance to these processes. The Comparative Biology of Aging Core employs EBI species to address these issues. The overarching goal of the Core is to provide to researchers high quality, hard-to-get biological research materials from EBI species. Services include:

•Procure, cryopreserve, and provide to investigators tissues, cells, and other samples (e.g., blood, plasma, bone marrow) from EBI species.

•Maintain research colonies, or purchase animals or tissues, of selected EBI species.

•Provide consultation and feasibility assessment for investigators wishing to pursue comparative aging studies. 

The design of comparative studies requires detailed information on the longevity of specific species, the reliability of that information, availability of tissues from archived materials, on-going field or laboratory studies, and up-to-date information on the phylogenetic relation among species. 

Atomic Force Microscopy Core

The technique of AFM takes advantage of possibility to non-invasively and non-destructively detect topography of microscopic objects using a small, sharp vibrating tip (AFM probe), which interacts with atoms of a sample by the van der Waals forces. The interactions change the resonant frequency or vibrational amplitude of the tip. The changes are monitored by the system and reflect the sample topography and other physical and chemical properties of its surface. The technique possesses unique capabilities to study the dynamics of structure, interactions and surface properties of biological objects from whole cells to single biomacromolecules. Under conditions most closely resembling the native environment, a practical resolution achievable for biological objects reaches 1 nm in lateral direction, 0.1 nm in height, and milliseconds to minutes in a temporal domain.

Objects of the studies can be either dried or immersed in a liquid. In the latter case, ligands can be added or washed out from the sample without ceasing AFM image acquiring. The output data suitable for further mathematical processing are in the form of height, amplitude or surface plot images, or in the form of force plots, where the force of interactions between tip, including modified tip, and sample is measured.

In addition to AFM, the laboratory is fully equipped to perform scanning tunneling microscopy imaging (STM), another method from the scanning probe microscopies (SPM) group, providing advanced information about topography, charge and electric properties of biological and non-biological objects.