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A cool way to accelerate Ohio State life science research

Cryo-electron microscopy is coming to The Ohio State University. And it should deliver immediate benefits to Ohio State’s medical research enterprise once installation of the complex equipment is completed in the spring.

Earlier this month, the first of two Thermo Scientific instruments was delivered and installed at the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS) on Kinnear Road. CEMAS engineer-scientists have completed training on the Glacios cryo transmission electron microscope (cryo-TEM) and await delivery of the more powerful Krios cryo-TEM in January.

cryo-electron microscope at CEMAS(r to l) Marcin Zemla of ThermoFisher Scientific leads CEMAS researchers Yoshie Narui, Binbing Deng and Hendrik Colijn, and Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology Assoc. Prof. Charles Bell through training on the Glacios cryo-EMCryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a technique applied on samples cooled to cryogenic temperatures and embedded in a thin layer of vitreous water. By overcoming challenges associated with traditional electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance, cryo-EM enables scientists to see how biomolecules move and interact as they perform their functions. The 2017 Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded to three scientists for developing cryo-EM for biomolecular analysis.

Recent advances in cryo-EM technology and techniques have made it an important tool for drug discovery. In a matter of weeks, Ohio State scientists will enjoy resources on campus to investigate the structure and function of large protein complexes, bacterial systems and viruses in their native environment at near-atomic resolution.

Home of one of the world’s most extensive collections of electron microscopes, CEMAS serves the Ohio State research community as well as industry and other research institutions seeking state-of-the-art equipment and expertise.

Located in a custom-designed, full-service facility, every one of CEMAS’s fourteen electron and ion microscopes meets or exceeds manufacturer performance specifications. Its highly skilled staff is led by Director David McComb, an Ohio Research Scholar and professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

“While we already have some cryo capabilities, the new Thermo Scientific instruments are truly a game changer,” said McComb. “Ohio State health sciences researchers now can come down the street for world-class biomolecular analysis, as opposed to waiting in line at one of a handful institutions in the country with similar capabilities and expertise.”

Led by the College of Engineering, multiple Ohio State entities collaborated on funding the new equipment. The financial collaboration was spurred by dozens of letters of support from research faculty throughout the university.

In October with the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, CEMAS co-hosted a Cryo Electron Microscopy for Cancer Research workshop. Ohio State engineering and medical researchers gathered to learn from global experts, including University of British Columbia’s Sriram Subramaniam, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry’s Benjamin Engel, and Huilin Li from the Van Andel Research Institute.

While Ohio State researchers enjoy priority utilization of CEMAS equipment and services, McComb added that researchers from other universities and medical centers around the country also are welcome as clients or partners.