Morphology and imaging

Allowing researchers to examine the form of living organisms and the relationships between their structures.

Technology to drive breakthrough science

The Morphology and Imaging Core is a centralized facility serving the microanatomical, histological, live-cell and in vivo microscopic imaging and bioenergetic assay needs of all researchers and projects at the Buck Institute as well as external users. Core staff provide a range of support, from direct participation in research projects to routine sample preparation for imaging.

The full-service laboratory customizes and optimizes protocols for histology, cytochemistry, immunostaining, in situ hybridization, functional imaging and image analysis to meet individual needs. Experiments are conducted using brightfield, DIC, fluorescence, laser scanning confocal, two-photon or transmission electron microscopy. State-of-the-art software is employed to analyze and quantify multidimensional data sets. We provide training in all services offered.

  • Martin Brand, PhD . Director

    Martin Brand was trained in the UK at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, where he received his Bachelor of Science, and at the University of Bristol, where he received his PhD. His postdoctoral work was at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, with Professor A. L. Lehninger. Dr. Brand was a faculty member of the Biochemistry Department at the University of Cambridge, and he was subsequently a group leader at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge. He moved his laboratory to the Buck Institute in 2008. His research focuses on cellular energy transformations, and his lab uses techniques such as fluorescence imaging and extracellular flux analysis.

  • Akos Gerencser, MD, PhD . Assistant Director

    Akos Gerencser received his MD and PhD in neurosciences at Semmelweis University and his MS in biomedical engineering at Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary. His postdoctoral work was at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California, and at the Buck Institute. He has worked with Dr. Brand at the Buck Institute since 2008, initially as a staff scientist and since 2012 as an assistant research professor. His interdisciplinary research merges assay technology development (primarily advanced live-cell fluorescence microscopy) for mitochondrial physiology and bioenergetics with application of these technologies to neurodegenerative diseases, stem cell biology, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Stella Breslin, BS . Senior Research Associate - Morphology

    Stella Breslin graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2013 and joined the Buck Institute in 2014. She received a certificate in optical microscopy and advanced bioscience microscopy from the Merritt College Microscopy Program in 2010. She oversees and assists with all core responsibilities, including tissue processing and embedding and histological sectioning of frozen and paraffin samples. She is also involved in core imaging projects and shares general project management duties with collaborators.

  • Harris Ingle . Research Associate

    Harris Ingle graduated from UC Berkeley in 1994. He received a certificate in optical microscopy and advanced bioscience microscopy from Merritt College in 2010, where he continued to work as a lab technician for the Merritt Microscopy Program. He was in the first cohort of Merritt College’s Histotechnology program in 2015. He joined the Buck Institute in 2019 and assists with core services such as tissue embedding, sectioning, and histological staining. His duties include training the Institute’s technical and research staff in the use of facility instrumentation and software.

Laboratory services

Tissue processing, embedding, and sectioning: frozen, paraffin, or floating

Histological stains: H&E, Cresyl Violet, Oil Red O, etc.

Immunohistochemistry or immunocytochemistry with enzyme-substrate development (HRP, AP) or fluorescent secondaries


Imaging services

Functional imaging: imaging of calcium and other ion concentrations, fluorescent protein localization and aggregation, organelle motility, apoptosis, FRET, FRAP, mitochondrial and plasma membrane potential, photoactivation/uncaging, etc.

High content imaging: automated microplate-based multidimensional imaging

Conventional microscopy: brightfield, DIC, fluorescence (blue/green/red/infrared)

Laser scanning confocal and two-photon microscopy: immunolocalization, co-localization, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, functional time course, slice culture, fly organs, intracranial, etc.

Transmission electron microscopy: sample preparation, sectioning, imaging, image analysis


Image processing services

Bitplane Imaris: modules include Imaris Core, Measurement Pro, FilamentTracer, co-localization and batch processing for 3D or 4D reconstruction and analysis for fixed or functional imaging data

Image Analyst MKII: multidimensional time-lapse analysis, customized high content analysis, automated image analysis


Leica embedding center, sliding, and automated rotary microtomes (RM2155)

Leica CM1950 cryostat

Microm HM505EP cryostat

RMC MT7000 ultramicrotome with diatome diamond knives

Leica TP1020 automated tissue processor

Nikon SMU-zoom dissecting microscope

Dual-view Nikon E400 microscope


Light microscopy

Zeiss LSM 780 inverted confocal with 405 nm, 442 nm, and standard RGB lasers. Features constant temperature enclosure and CO2 regulation at the stage for functional assays.

Zeiss LSM 7MP upright deep tissue imager with Chameleon Vision II laser (680 nm to 1080 nm). Features constant temperature enclosure and CO2 regulation at the stage for functional assays.

Zeiss LSM 510 inverted confocal with argon (458 nm, 477 nm, 488 nm, and 514 nm), 543 HeNe, and 633 HeNe lasers for fixed or functional imaging. Features constant temperature enclosure and CO2 regulation at the stage.

Nikon Ti PFS inverted microscope with Cascade 512B EMCCD camera, Sutter filter wheels, and xenon light source for rapid functional image acquisition. Features constant temperature enclosure and CO2 regulation at the stage.

Nikon E800 and TE300 upright microscopes with DS-Fi3 CCD camera, DIC optics, and Hg bulb for fixed sample brightfield, DIC, and epifluorescent imaging

Ni-E upright microscope with motorized stage, epifluorescence, DAPI, GFP, Texas Red, and CY5 filters


Electron microscopy

Transmission electron microscopy: FEI-Philips Tecnai 12, tilting stage, Gatan Bioscan CCD


Respirometry and flux analysis

Agilent Seahorse XFe24: 24-well extracellular flux analyzer

Agilent Seahorse XFe96: 96-well extracellular flux analyzer



Perkin Elmer EnSpire Alpha plate reader: luminescence and AlphaLISA/AlphaScreen microplate reader

We charge researchers at an hourly rate for utilizing core services and equipment.

External contracts are evaluated on a per-project basis.

Please contact the core manager for further information.

Stella Breslin
Senior Research Associate – Morphology
415-209-2000 ext 6809

Technological innovation in the service of scientific advancement

Our cutting-edge technologies support the Institute’s goals and put the newest capabilities in the
hands of our scientists.

Explore our core technologies