New Cryo-Electron Microscopy facility to tackle critical research issues

A Nobel prize-winning technique that underpins worldwide efforts to understand and treat diseases, and develop new drugs and medical therapies, forms part of a new microscopy facility launched yesterday at The University of Western Australia.

Funded by the Federal Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the WA State Government through the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, the cryo-electron microscopy suite is the first of its kind in Western Australia.

It includes three new microscopes: two JEOL F200 Transmission Electron Microscopes and a JEOL IT800 Scanning Electron Microscope, plus state-of-the-art sample preparation facilities (Leica Microsystems).

As the gold standard approach in structural biology, cryo-transmission electron microscopy (CryoTEM) allows scientists to see the intricate structures of proteins, viruses and other biomolecules at sub-nanometre resolution, providing greater understanding of the behaviours of these important biological structures and inspiring novel treatments to illness and disease.

The new cryo-scanning electron microscope (CryoSEM) enables surface imaging and element analysis of frozen samples across the physical and bio- sciences. It will support key WA research efforts in agriculture, biotechnology, and advanced materials.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said the microscopes would provide West Australian researchers in universities, medical research institutes, government labs and industry with the ability to address critical research problems.

These include salinity and drought tolerance in crops, mine site remediation, food security and plant susceptibility to disease, biosecurity and exotic pathogens, organism responses to climate change, wildlife and human diseases, and the innovative design and application of soft materials.

The new facility will be housed in the WA node of Microscopy Australia, within the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis at UWA.

Facility director Associate Professor Martin Saunders said the new cryo-electron microscopy facility, which is the largest-ever single investment into electron microscopy in WA, would ensure that West Australian researchers in the biological and biomedical sciences had access to the latest technology critical to maintaining world-class research across the State.

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