New electron microscope at UF Health to aid in the diagnosis of renal, other disorders

University of Florida Health is the first academic health center in Florida to receive a new electron microscope that will help pathologists more easily and effectively diagnose kidney diseases and certain types of cancer, among many other disorders.

UF Health Pathology Laboratories, a full-service pathology resource for physicians throughout the southeastern United States, recently purchased and installed the electron microscope, called the JEOL JEM – 1400Plus, to further expand its onsite diagnostic capabilities.

Electron microscopy plays an essential role in the diagnosis of kidney diseases. It also is used to diagnose muscle and nerve disorders, specific types of cancer, cilia abnormalities, platelet disorders, lysosomal storage diseases and occupational and environmental diseases, as well as in many research applications. Electron microscopy can also identify microbial organisms that are hard to identify by other means, such as viruses.

“It allows us to take a look inside cells and their surroundings and see exactly what the pathologic defect is and its specific location,” said William Clapp, M.D., a professor of pathology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. “With regard to kidney disorders, electron microscopy helps us distinguish different forms of primary kidney disease and systemic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and lupus erythematosus that frequently affect the kidney.”

An electron microscope can “see” with 1,000 times the resolution of a light microscope, which allows it to look at extremely small structures. Certain diseases require the electron microscope for diagnosis because similar pathologic structures from different sources can vary by only a few nanometers in size. The electron microscope allows physicians and scientists to view structures such as viruses and DNA strands that cannot be easily seen by other methods.

“An asset in research is that the electron microscope allows pathologists to address unexplored areas or answer unasked questions,” Clapp said.

The JEM – 1400Plus electron microscope features a navigation system that allows pathologists to target and save an image of a specific area on a specimen, analyze other areas on the sample and then automatically return to the original area. It features different specimen holders, one of which holds four grids, allowing four patient samples to be examined; a sophisticated side-mount camera with advanced software; and ample storage for images.

Eighty-six tests were performed in March using the electron microscope, the highest case record the lab has seen since 2013.