Transformative High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy Program
The program supports efforts to broaden access to cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) through the creation of national service centers and to build a skilled workforce by developing cryo-EM training material. Three national service centers with state-of-the-art equipment, technical support, and cross-training for the production and analysis of high-resolution data are being built at the New York Structural Biology Center, Oregon Health & Science University in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. Online and computer-based cryo-EM instructional material is being developed by the California Institute of Technology, Yale University, the University of Utah, and Purdue University.
Microscopy is an important tool for scientists in the study of cells, tissues, and organs. Knowing the structure of a molecule reveals important information about how it functions and can provide insight into potential drug targets for fighting disease. Cryo-EM is a method used to image frozen biological molecules without the use of structure-altering dyes or fixatives or the need for crystallization to provide a more accurate picture of the molecules and a greater understanding of biological function. Recent advances in cryo-EM technology have made it possible for scientists to obtain detailed images and structures of many biological molecules that cannot be obtained using other methods, like X-ray crystallography. Despite the emergence of cryo-EM as a powerful high-resolution imaging method, its use is hampered by inadequate access to equipment and a limited workforce. By increasing scientists’ access and training on cryo-EM and the detailed information it can provide about viruses, proteins, and other important biomolecules, the NIH hopes to accelerate the development of vaccines and drugs to combat diseases and conditions from Alzheimer’s to Zika.
This page last reviewed on May 15, 2018