Finding cures for children's genetic diseases


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  • ATAC Centre
    ATAC Centre
  • Anaphase telomeres
    Anaphase telomeres
  • Telomere sister chromatid exchanges
    Telomere sister chromatid exchanges
  • Telomeres in pink
    Telomeres in pink

ACRF Telomere Analysis Centre

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation Telomere Analysis Centre (ATAC) was opened in 2015 as Australia’s first centre dedicated to supporting research into the cellular functions of telomeres. Telomeres, nucleoprotein structures that protect chromosome ends, have emerging roles in cancer risk and oncogenesis, and the telomere maintenance mechanisms that are activated in almost all cancers are prime targets for the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.

The primary scientific focus of ATAC is centred on the study of telomeres and their roles in cell proliferation, cancer and ageing, with the secondary focus to support a broad range of medical and biological research projects. ATAC was developed by Kids Cancer Alliance telomere research leaders from Children's Medical Research Institute, Sydney Children's Hospital Network, and Children's Cancer Institute. The centre was established with the support of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) and the Ian Potter Foundation. ACRF granted $2 million to Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) to fund equipment for the centre, which is located in a purpose-built facility within CMRI's building expansion at Westmead.

For more information, check out our fact sheet here.

CMRI's telomere research is already helping to save lives - see Diandra's story in the video.

ATAC Instruments 
ATAC is equipped with state of the art microscopy systems and instruments for the molecular analysis of telomere length. The equipment in the centre will allow researchers to better characterize and understand the differences in telomere biology between normal and cancer cells.
Zeiss LSM 880 Airyscan Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope
Laser scanning confocal microscopy is an essential method in cell biology research for its ability to optically section and reconstruct cellular samples in three dimensions. The LSM 880 at ATAC is thefirst of its kind installed in Australia. Equipped with the Zeiss Airyscan detector, this microscope allows us to visualize intracellular structures in higher resolution, up to the super-resolution level.
Zeiss Cell Observer SD Spinning Disk Confocal Microscope
Live cell imaging will enable us to establish a new paradigm for telomere research because of its capacity to visualise dynamic telomere functions in normal and cancer cells. The Cell Observer SD microscope lets us reconstruct structures inside living cells in three dimensions over time and can capture rapid cellular events occurring at a time scale of milliseconds.
Zeiss Axio Observer Widefield Live Cell Microscope
Visualizing living cells offers a dimension to experiments that fixed (preserved) specimens can’t provide. By imaging live cells over the course of hours or days, this microscope enables studying the effects of abnormal telomeres on the cell cycle, cell lifespan and genome integrity. Cells can be imaged unlabelled or tagged with fluorescent proteins.
Zeiss Axio Imager Z2 with ApoTome.2 Widefield Upright Microscopes
The two Axio Imager upright fluorescence microscopes are the ‘workhorses’ of ATAC, allowing researchers to capture images of a wide range of fluorescently-labelled cell samples. The ApoTome.2 instrument allows the reconstruction of images in three dimensions with enhanced resolution and contrast.
MetaSystems Metafer Chromosomal Analysis Microscopes
CMRI researchers pioneered the use of automated metaphase chromosome imaging in telomere research using the Metafer automated fluorescence microscopy system. ATAC’s two Metafer systems accelerate research by automating fluorescence microscopy of cancer and normal cells, enabling imaging in a few hours cell that would otherwise have taken weeks to complete.
QIAGEN Rotor-Gene Q real-time PCR thermocycler
The estimation of the length of the DNA sequence portion of an individual’s telomeres, known as telomere length analysis, is an important technique in the study of telomere-based diseases. The Rotor-Gene Q is specialized to perform quantitative PCR (qPCR), an emerging approach to telomere length analysis.
QIAGEN QIAgility instrument
The QIAgility robotic liquid handling instrument supports qPCR assays for telomere length analysis through automated precise reagent pipetting and qPCR experiment setup.
Image Analysis Workstations
Imaging from ATAC’s microscope systems is supported by six powerful computer workstations with software packages for digital image analysis. These computers allow researchers to extract quantitative data from microscope images, allowing them to test hypotheses and propel their research forward.
For further information on the facility, please contact Dr Scott Page, ATAC Manager (