Bar Harbor, MaineThe 4Pi Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope is the world's most advanced optical microscope--capable of revealing the nanostructure of genetic material within a cell in three dimensions. The first such instrument is now coming to the United States in 2005, thanks to a $732,624 National Science Foundation grant to a Maine interdisciplinary biophysical research program.
The Institute for Molecular Biophysics brings together expertise in biophysics and engineering at the University of Maine in Orono, molecular and cell biology at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) in Scarborough, and genetics and genomics at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. IMB's goal: to explore the structure and function of genes and chromosomes within cells, in order to understand precisely how genes control both normal development and disease.
Once installed at The Jackson Laboratory, the 4Pi microscope will enable the IMB researchers to examine specific structures within a cellsuch as a single gene on a chromosomeat a resolution four to seven times greater than previously possible.
"Astronomers have space-based telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope to understand the history and structure of the universe," comments IMB co-director Barbara Knowles of The Jackson Laboratory and the University of Maine. "Physicists have giant particle accelerators to isolate the fundamental elements of energy and matter. Now researchers in genetics and biology have an advanced tool to examine the very structure of the mouse, human and other genomes."
The 4Pi microscope is manufactured by Leica Microsystems in Mannheim, Germany, based on technology developed by Stefen Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Gttingen, Germany. The "4Pi" designation refers to the unique way in which light is emitted.
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