FEI has announced the sale of a complete correlative workflow to the University of Maastricht. The systems will be installed at the University’s Institute of Nanoscopy, a new research facility that will use the high-resolution microscopes to understand the working mechanisms of protein complexes in an effort to develop new and improved treatment and prevention for disease, such as cancer and tuberculosis.
“Our ultimate goal is to image biological nano-machines and their mode of action at the macromolecular-scale by pushing the current limits of visual proteomics and nanotechnologies,” states Peter Peters, university professor of Nanobiology at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, and head of the Institute of Nanoscopy. “Cryo-electron microscopy is the only way to study cellular processes close to the in vivo situation. In order to do so, a full workflow is needed, from live cell imaging with fluorescent markers through cryo-fixation to preserve the structure, and finally, using high-resolution cryo-electron tomography to visualize three-dimensional structures down to the nanometer scale. FEI is the only company that can deliver this complete workflow from start to finish.”
The complete workflow delivered to the University of Maastricht starts with live cell imaging using CorrSight™, an advanced light microscope that is designed specifically for use in correlative experiments and enables researchers to image live cell dynamics and, when a targeted event is observed, quickly fix those cells for electron microscopy (EM). FEI’s MAPS™ software tracks the target position and coordinates and provides a common operating interface between the different tools across the entire workflow.
The sample, along with its coordinates, is then transferred to the Scios DualBeam™ (focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope) system, which thins the identified areas of interest down to the appropriate thickness of 100-200 nm while maintaining cryogenic conditions. The thinned sample is transferred to the Tecnai Arctica™ transmission electron microscope (TEM) for high-resolution imaging and analysis. The Arctica is specially-designed for automated, high-throughput cryo-tomography, which acquires a sequence of images from different perspectives to reconstruct a 3D model of the target.
According to Peter Fruhstorfer, FEI’s vice president and general manager of Life Sciences, “The complete workflow provides a seamless way to study biological cells and processes. It reduces the tedious manual work and improves reproducibility of the data.” He adds, “We have a long-standing relationship with Dr. Peters, who is a leading and well-known researcher in his field. We look forward to working with him to further expand the use of cryo-EM in medical research.”
The research team at the University’s Institute of Nanoscopy will focus on revealing the 3D structure of a large complex called ‘type VII secretion system’ present in the cell wall of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the most important virulence factor. This knowledge may contribute to improving the vaccine presently used against tuberculosis (TB).
This research is based on Dr. Peters’ findings of how the bacteria that cause TB behave within cells, which was published in Cell in 2007. The Institute also aims to develop greater insight into the working of the immune system, which may potentially lead to an immune response against cancer cells in the human body. In addition, the team will continue to work on improving sample preparation for cryo-EM.