From HMS: “The Future of Molecular Visualization”
January 18, 2017
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New cryo-electron microscopy center to transform biomedical imaging
Cryo-EM images can reveal new insights into how the molecular machines of a cell operate. Image: Maofu Liao.
Seeing a molecule in a microscope was once the stuff of science fiction. No longer.
With the creation of the Harvard Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center for Structural Biology in the Longwood Medical Area, Harvard University today launched a pivotal initiative in molecular visualization, which promises remarkable advances in scientists’ ability to see molecules directly.
Visualizing molecules at the level of atoms enables in-depth understanding of molecular mechanisms in both normal and disease states. Seeing subtle molecular details will fuel the development of next-generation precision therapeutics.
The new center emerged from a bold and visionary collaboration among partners from Harvard Medical School, the University’s Office of the Provost, Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“This new center demonstrates how Harvard and its affiliated institutions can partner to establish leading-edge facilities and resources that accelerate biomedical discoveries,” said Alan Garber, provost of Harvard University.
Stephen Blacklow, the Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Professor and chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at HMS, remarked, “The cooperation and resolve shown by all participants in pursuit of this effort has been truly impressive and foreshadows an outstanding future for molecular visualization at Harvard.”
George Q. Daley, dean of HMS, said, “We now have a microscope that allows us to see single molecules at the atomic level. This innovation will energize science in the hospitals and on the Quad, catalyzing translational research to see where it can bear on disease.”
“Cryo-electron microscopy is an important tool to reveal the structures of many building blocks essential to our understanding of human biology and the alterations that affect health and disease states,” added Barbara J. McNeil, former acting dean of HMS.
“We are extremely excited about the new HMS center and look forward over the coming years to an explosion in our understanding of cellular machines,” said Wade Harper, the Bert and Natalie Vallee Professor of Molecular Pathology and chair of the Department of Cell Biology at HMS.
Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) represents the latest frontier in imaging deployed by structural biologists.
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