BioBuzz by Workforce Genetics

Bio-Trac and Histochemical Society Partner to Provide Hands-on Immunofluorescence and Immunohistochemistry Training

Immunofluorescence (IF) and Immunohistochemistry (IHC) are both extremely powerful techniques that are used to visualize different types of molecules in cells and tissues, from proteins and extracellular matrix to nucleic acids, viruses, bacteria, and more. You can capture how molecules are behaving in a single moment in time, or you can take real-time videos of molecules in motion. With this, you can answer everything from basic biophysics questions to how a drug compound behaves in a biological system.

With powerful techniques, though, there is a lot to learn in order to adapt them to your needs. Many scientists learn these skills through literature or Google searches, crossing their fingers that there is a good protocol out there that somewhat applies to their system so they don’t have to start from scratch. From there, they try to navigate their way through tinkering and optimizing, trying out different antibodies, staining techniques, and other parameters to get things just right.

Needless to say, there can be a lot of frustration involved with going at it on your own, especially if you have no one else in your lab or team to lean on.

Rather than spending weeks, potentially months trying to learn these techniques, what if you could instead take a short workshop where you could learn from some of the experts in the field, not only becoming immersed in how to perform IF and IHC, but learning the theory behind each step and how to troubleshoot when things go wrong?

Look no further than Bio-Trac – a renowned biotechnology training program held out of  Germantown, MD’s world-class Bioscience Education Center.

Bio-Trac hosts an array of different hands-on, intensive workshops, from CRISPR to next-generation sequencing to flow cytometry and more. Recently, the program partnered with experts from the Histochemical Society (HCS), a professional organization of scientists that share a passion for all things microscopy, to host a 4.5 day workshop focused on the art and science of IF and IHC. Scientists congregated from all over the country, and one even from overseas to learn from a skilled group of instructors with different backgrounds, all of whom use the techniques in different ways. 

The participants ranged from graduate students to postdocs, from professors to industry professionals and government employees, showing that no matter where you are in your career or what sector you’re in, there’s always something you can learn.

Participants of Bio-Trac and HCS’s recent IF/IHC workshop in front of the BioScience Education Center at Montgomery College (Credit: Bio-Trac)

One of the instructors, Sally Davis, D.V.M., Ph.D., is a veterinary pathologist as well as the Resident Education and Outreach Lead for HSC. “Students are broken up into groups and rotate through different techniques and instruments. During incubations, we go to the lecture hall and discuss what we’re seeing and how to problem solve,” said Sally. “At the end of the workshop, students take their slides home to practice with at their own institutions, and they’re also given all the datasheets and ordering information so that they know exactly what they need to order when they head back. They’re not just learning a technique in a vacuum.”

And make no mistake – the equipment students use isn’t just dusty, used microscopes that have been sitting in a storage room for years. The BioScience Education Center facilities are equipped with high-end instruments, including flow cytometers, microscopes, biosafety cabinets, bioreactors, industry-grade protein purification systems, and more. And if Bio-Trac needs another type of equipment for a particular course, they tap into the hundreds of biotech and biopharma companies in the BioHealth Capital Region who are often willing to bring in temporary equipment for training.

Paul Goodwin, Science Director at Cytiva and Course Director, praised the facilities at the BioScience Education Center. “I’ve taught at facilities all over the world, and I haven’t seen a facility like this that’s so well equipped for training students,” he said. “These labs are truly remarkable.”

And not to worry – Bio-Trac and the HCS will be running the IF/IHC course again in June 2023. Make sure you’re signed up to their email list so you’ll be in the know on what’s to come.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the other upcoming courses that Bio-Trac is offering in 2022: