Core labs at academic institutes lower the barrier to expensive technology and give people access to techniques outside their field of expertise. These facilities are growing in popularity and importance as universities use core lab resources to attract top-notch faculty.
Each core lab is structured differently, and they vary greatly in size, scope, and accessibility. Some universities reserve the use of core labs for their own scientists, while others open up these valuable resources to outside researchers on a space available basis. By tapping into these university resources, scientists outside the Ivory Tower can find affordable research services and knowledgeable experts to advise on a variety of projects.
Because core labs are used to attract faculty, high profile research centers are good places to seek out diverse and cutting-edge core facilities. As an example, stem cell core facilities have sprung up as more scientists look to capitalize on stem cell technology. The core labs provide training on how to establish and maintain stem cell cultures. They also house dedicated cell culture equipment for pluripotent cells, plus advanced imaging capabilities for carrying out stem cell research. The Torrey Pines Mesa in San Diego is home to three stem cell cores, housed at The Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute (SBMRI), and UCSD. California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has helped fund many such cores within California, keeping stem cell research moving forward through times of uncertain federal funding.
By doing experiments at core labs, investigators new to stem cells can quickly develop the expertise to apply stem cell technology to their area of research. To speed this process along, formal training programs teach people how to derive and culture induced pluripotent stem cells. SBRMI offers a hands-on program in which participants do the process from beginning to end. Brief but intense programs like these can give people the confidence they need to branch out into new areas of research. Core labs are designed to make technology more accessible, and the cores mentioned here are good examples of that.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking about core labs. See the new Assay Depot Core Facilities page for a list of more resources you might consider using for your own research.