The late Shinya Inoué was widely known for his scientific brilliance as well as his generosity, a legacy that continues to this day.

The late MBL Distinguished Scientist Shinya Inoué in 2006 with his centrifuge polarizing microscope. Credit: Tom KleindinstThe late MBL Distinguished Scientist Shinya Inoué in 2006 with his centrifuge polarizing microscope. Credit: Tom Kleindinst

Last summer, a few months before his death, Inoué blessed the transfer of the centrifuge polarizing microscope that he invented and built at MBL in collaboration with Olympus Optical and Hamamatsu Photonics. The microscope’s transfer to the National Institute of Genetics in Japan is a gift to the institute's Cell Architecture Laboratory, led by Akatsuki Kimura. In early March, before the MBL moved to remote work due to COVID-19 precautions, a team carefully disassembled the microscope and packaged it for shipping to Japan.

The centrifuge polarizing microscope (CPM), which Inoué introduced in 2001, has a rotating stage that applies powerful centrifugal forces to cells and suspensions, which are imaged while the forces (up to  ~10,000 times the Earth's gravitational pull) are applied. “This is a unique and powerful approach to measuring forces inside the cell,” said Kimura.

Video: The rotating stage of the centrifuge polarizing microscope. Credit: Tomomi Tani

Kimura became interested in the microscope in 2014 when he came to the MBL's Whitman Center as a collaborator of Gohta Goshima, a scientist from Nagoya University, Japan. Kimura subsequently returned to the Whitman Center to explore the microscope's applications. Kimura is interested in how the nucleus finds the geometric center of the cell; using the CPM, he can quantify the forces in the cell needed to move the nucleus.

“We all decided that moving the CPM to Aki Kimura’s lab would make the best use of this unique instrument, and give the best chance for its upkeep and improvement,” said MBL Senior Scientist Rudolf Oldenbourg, a longtime colleague of Inoué’s at the MBL.

In March, Kimura disassembled the CPM with the help of Naobumi Okada, an engineer from Olympus who originally designed the mechanical parts of the instrument, and Makoto Goda, another collaborator with Inoué on the microscope’s design and development. Also facilitating the transfer was Tomomi Tani, a former MBL scientist who is now at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.