The method of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), which allows researchers to view samples down to their individual atoms, is set to revolutionize biological research and our fundamental understanding of physiology and disease. Scientists at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, led by Dr. Anthony Fitzpatrick, will combine cryo-EM with cryo electron tomography (cryo-ET) thanks to a $2.84 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Cryo-ET enables the 3D imaging of molecules within the cellular environment, providing essential information about how they act within the body; information which is lost once the samples are extracted from the cell.
Cryo ET and cryo EM combined by the Fitzpatrick group at Columbia University
Dr. Fitzpatrick and his colleagues will use this cutting-edge combination of cryo microscopy methods to study a range of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lewy body dementia, all fatal disorders that currently have no effective treatments. A vital component of these diseases appears to be malfunctioning protein that aggregates into large deposits within the brain. Understanding how these structures form, and what impact they have, requires cellular context, which cryo-ET is ideally suited to provide.
We are excited to see what findings will undoubtedly stem from this award, taking us ever closer to a treatment for these debilitating neurological diseases. To learn more, read the press release from the Zuckerman Institute.
How Cryo-EM Can Help Untangle Neurodegenerative Diseases
If you want to learn more about how cryo-EM can help you untangle neurodegenerative diseases, watch our video tutorial where Dr. Fitzpatrick explains how he used cryo-EM to reveal the structure of amyloid fibrils in his research:
Alex Ilitchev, PhD, is a Science Writer at Thermo Fisher Scientific.