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Dr. Troy Randall with cytometry equipment.Dr. Troy Randall with cytometry equipment. 

The idea that cells are the unit of life began when Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked under a microscope. He was the first to observe that tissues were composed of tiny chambers—cells—that worked together to make a functional organ. Three hundred years later, this knowledge underpins all of modern biology.

Our ability to define those cells and understand their functions has vastly improved since that time. New single cell genomics instruments can precisely differentiate the cellular composition of a sample tissue at an astonishing speed of 25,000 cells per second. In the hands of expert UAB scientists, these sophisticated cytometers can even isolate individual cancer cells, immune cells or other cell types from complex mixtures so that their functions or drug sensitivities can be determined.

Learning more about this modern investigative technology was thrilling to former UA Athletics Director Bill Battle and his wife Mary, whose daughter Kayla Smeraglia was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2008. The family received excellent medical care from physician-investigator Dr. Bob Kimberly, and they have been gratefully supporting UAB arthritis research ever since.

According to Mary, “When Kayla learned she had rheumatoid arthritis she was very sick. In seeking out healthcare for her, we learned that UAB has one of the top immunology and rheumatology programs in the country. At UAB she received a novel therapy that yielded amazing results. She continues to do well, is married, has two children and a career. We believe that receiving treatment at UAB made all of this possible.”

This year, the Battles directed their philanthropic support to accelerate cytometry-based research at UAB. Their gift establishes a new fund in honor of their daughter: The Kayla Smeraglia Single Cell and Cytometry Core Equipment Fund. The new resources will be used to maintain existing equipment as well as make new purchases.

Dr. Troy Randall, the Meyer Foundation and William J. Koopman Endowed Chair in Immunology and Rheumatology, is the Director of the Core. He says, “The Kayla Smeraglia Single Cell and Cytometry Equipment Fund will provide the instrumentation to perform critical cellular investigations for more than 200 faculty across our campus. We are deeply grateful for our longstanding partnership with the Battle family. Their generosity offers us tremendous advantage in pursing discoveries that impact health and wellness.”

The Single Cell and Cytometry Core at UAB is currently home to 11 single cell cytometers and sorters, two single cell molecular biology instruments and a precision liquid-handling robot for sample preparation. The Core will continue to enhance their important research through this transformative charitable support.