A study showed that a cryo-electron microscope reveals the inner workings of life at the cellular level. Australia’s most advanced and powerful microscope, capable of visualizing down to the level of individual atoms, begins its working life today.

The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) three-metre tall, one tonne FEI ThermoFisher Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope lets scientists see the inner workings of human cells with unprecedented clarity, and will enable new ways of understanding and cure diseases such as motor neurone disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, as well as tackle health challenges like antimicrobial resistance.

Microscope

The microscope will be the centerpiece of Molecular Horizons, UOW’s world-leading molecular and life sciences research facility, and part of a suite of transformative technology. The microscope will be available not just to scientists from UOW and ANSTO, but to researchers from universities and other research institutions across Australia and around the world.

Cryo-EM Images

A cryogenic electron microscope, the Titan Krios uses electrons rather than light to look at molecules, firing a stream of high-energy electrons through a frozen sample, generating multiple two-dimensional images that scientists then convert to three-dimensional models of molecules, visualizing their nano-sized loops and chains.

The driving philosophy of Molecular Horizons is to use visualization as an enabler for scientific discovery. Seeing is believing, after all. Medical research has come a long way in understanding disease and finding cures. But most of the drugs we prescribe, in most cases very successfully, have been discovered basically by trial and error.

One of the major challenges in the molecular life sciences is to understand the molecules and proteins involved in disease at such a level of detail that we don’t have to find drugs by trial and error but instead can design or engineer them. Almost like knowing exactly how the inside of a lock looks like so you can design the key instead of having to pick the lock with a paperclip.

Biomolecules

The molecular details it reveals are so small and precise it allows us to map out every nook and cranny of the surface of biological molecules such as proteins and DNA. Working in combination with the other technologies at Molecular Horizons it will unlock the door to an unprecedented understanding of how life works.

Research And Discovery

The revolutionary technology we are commissioning today will accelerate research and discovery. It has the power to change lives. The Titan Krios will allow us to see things we have never seen before.

Our organizations have shared commitments, particularly in investing in and providing access to technology to give researchers the tools to make significant health-related breakthroughs. They have 1200 scientists and engineers at ANSTO who are very much looking forward to seeing the research outputs and possibilities that this microscope enables.