Transformative High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy Program
The program aims to broaden access to high-resolution cryoelectron microscopy (cryoEM) for biomedical researchers, by creating national service centers, and cultivating a skilled workforce, through the development and implementation of cryoEM training material. The three national service centers offer: usage of state-of-the-art equipment, technical support, and cross-training for the production and analysis of high-resolution data. The three main centers are located 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. The online and computer-based cryoEM instructional material is being developed by the California Institute of Technology, Yale University, the University of Utah, and Purdue University.
The CryoEM program issued its awards in May of 2018. During the initial year, the awarded sites and consortium established operating procedures, an annual meeting, and other logistics to effectively achieve the overall goal of the program. The individual centers are nearing completion and training institutions are finalizing relevant materials. However, some centers and institutions have already begun to offer hands-on training, usage of cryoEM microscopes and other resources to members of the research community through their currently established awarded sites. All of the original sites are expected to begin their full suite of planned operations in early-mid FY2020. In addition, the program has taken initial steps to develop funding opportunity announcements for the establishment of a central hub and series of service centers focused on additional state-of-the-art technologies related to Cryo-Electron Tomography.
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. CryoEM 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 cryoEM 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 cryoEM 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 cryoEM 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 23, 2019