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Cryoelectron Microscope Finds Home at Northwestern

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Northwestern a $1.9 million grant to purchase a 300 kV cryoelectron microscope.

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February 25, 2009 | by Megan Fellman
EVANSTON, Ill --- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Northwestern University a $1.9 million grant to purchase a 300 kV (kilovolt) cryoelectron microscope. The JEOL 3200FS field-emission electron microscope will be one of less than a dozen of its kind in the United States.

The microscope, which is being built in Japan, is designed to allow high-resolution examination of biological specimens at low temperatures. Researchers from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Feinberg School of Medicine will take advantage of the instrument's features.

The microscope's primary use will be for single-molecule imaging and cryotomography with frozen specimens. One medical application is to predict the onset of cancer.

William Russin, research associate professor in neurobiology and physiology, is the principal investigator on the grant. He is the manager of Northwestern's Biological Imaging Facility, a multi-user facility that supports a large number of NIH-funded researchers.

"The beauty of this microscope is that you can observe frozen samples with no further processing and with less damage from the electron beam," said Russin. "By collecting a tomographic series -- tilted two-dimensional images -- from these specimens, we then can model the three-dimensional structure of the original specimen."

The microscope includes a wide range of features aimed at performing high-quality tomography, STEM (scanning transmission electron microscopy), dark field microscopy, EDS (energy-dispersive spectrometry) and EELS (electron energy-loss spectrometry).

The 3200FS is expected to arrive in August on the Evanston campus and will be installed in Northwestern's new Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics. The microscope is being manufactured by JEOL Ltd., headquartered in Tokyo.

The grant is from NIH's high-end instrumentation grant program, which supports the purchase of research equipment costing more than $750,000.

(Melissa Kreitner, a junior in the Medill School of Journalism, contributed to this story.)
Topics: Research