Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO) has debuted a cryogenic transmission electron microscope (cryo-TEM) that it claims “democratizes” the technique. In 2017, a trio of international researchers won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the microscopy method, which enables high-resolution imaging of biomolecules in a solution.
The technique enables researchers to see proteins in high resolution without any modification. Researchers have used cryo-EM to determine the structure of several proteins found in the COVID-19 virus.
Nature declared cryogenic transmission electron microscopy a “Method of the Year” in 2015.
Traditionally, labs with cryo-TEM capabilities often had to hire dedicated optics experts to calibrate the microscopes. But the new Tundra microscope uses software, guided automation and novel loading technology to simplify the use of the technique.
Thermo Fisher also designed the microscope to have a footprint that fits within standard labs. “Our previous generations of instruments needed to be housed in a structure that was often larger than existing labs, so institutions had to build a specific facility just to house it,” said John Sos, president of materials and structural analysis at Thermo Fisher Scientific in a webinar.
The microscope supports resolution as high as 3.5 angstroms.
Cryo-TEM has an advantage over techniques such as x-ray crystallography, which require a single static structure of imaged objects,
“The spike proteins on the [COVID-19] virus are flexible,” Sos said, “meaning crystallography couldn’t determine the structure of the dynamic coronavirus spike protein, but cryo-TEM could. This structural information has been invaluable for vaccine design.”
The Tundra microscope is part of a portfolio that includes the Cryo-TEM, a versatile solution for mid-range cryo-EM single particle analysis (SPA) and the Krios Cryo-TEM.