State-of-the-Art Cores to Support Translational Research

Richard Carson

YCCI supports technologies available through the School of Medicine’s world-class Research Cores. Besides state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, each Core is led and staffed by renowned scientists who provide investigators with the necessary expertise to utilize these technologies to their full potential in pursuit of scientific knowledge and medical advances. Faculty members in bioinformatics, biostatistics, and computational biology regularly collaborate with Core users to help interpret data.

YCCI is focused on emerging cores and on promoting interdisciplinary research activities, through such cores as:

• The emerging T1 Flow Cytometry Core, which utilizes CyTOF, an exciting new technology that overcomes many of the limitations of flow cytometry. CyTOF uses heavy metal ions as labels combined with mass spectometry to analyze complex human cell samples, providing more than 40 crystal clear markers in samples as small as 1,000 cells. Yale’s highly ranked immunology department and cancer research community are utilizing CyTOF to explore numerous conditions for which modulating the immune system may offer better treatments.

• The Yale Center for Genome Analysis (YCGA), which has grown into one of the country’s top genome centers. It performs exome analysis to identify new DNA variants in a host of human diseases and processes a rapidly increasing number of clinical samples to assist the Yale Cancer Center, the Department of Pediatrics, the Section of Cardiovascular Medicine, and other clinical services at Yale-New Haven Hospital in their efforts to offer “precision medicine” to their patients.

YCGA provides users with access not just to instrumentation for state-of-the-art genomic research, but also expertise to guide the analysis of the resulting data. The Center has been a leader in the development and use of whole-exome sequencing to identify mutations associated with clinical syndromes;  the results of this work have already improved clinical care by repurposing existing therapies and helping to develop new ones.

The Magnetic Resonance Research Center (MRRC), which uses functional MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to assess normal and impaired function in brain, liver, muscle, and other organs. The MRRC is equipped with five state-of-the-art MRI magnets for human imaging, including an upgraded 7T human head system.  MRS measures the chemical content of cells and is particularly useful as a noninvasive technique for measuring a broad range of biological compounds across tissues in vivo. One of the strengths of the MRRC is its ability to support patient safety during sophisticated isotopic and repeated blood draws in the course of imaging. This was achieved through the training of Hospital Research Unit nurses in magnet infusion procedures.

• The state-of-the-art Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center, which uses novel radiotracers to quantitatively measure a wide range of physiological and pharmacological functions in humans and research animals. In addition to helping understand the mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric illness, investigators are using PET for studies in cancer and diabetes. The Center’s scientists have developed new technologies such as event-by-event head motion correction and continuous respiratory correction, as well as novel paradigms and data analysis methods that are routinely applied in human studies. The PET Center maintains an active relationship with industry, collaborating in clinical trials and preclinical studies that combine its radiochemistry and PET imaging expertise with pharmaceutical databases.

• The Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology, which brings together clinicians with ideas for new devices and technologies to address unmet clinical needs with faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students in the Schools of Engineering  and Management who have the expertise to design and build prototypes and develop business plans. Members of Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research and resources from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute are also available to facilitate the development and commercialization of concepts.  CBIT hosts a variety of well-attended events to bring together interdisciplinary teams that would not otherwise have an opportunity to interact, including Clinician Pitch Nights, in which clinicians pitch their ideas; Hackathons to brainstorm solutions to pressing health problems; and an innovative Clinical Immersion Program with participants from the biopharmaceutical and device industries.