New U. of Colorado electron microscopes provide cell images never seen before

The University of Colorado at Boulder has acquired two new state-of-the-art electron microscopes and a suite of complementing computers that are providing three-dimensional images of cellular structures that have never been seen before.

The microscopes, which were purchased for a total of nearly $3 million, are furthering the reputation of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department as a nationally recognized research center, said Distinguished Professor Richard McIntosh. The department already has a three-story tall, 1 million-volt electron microscope that has been used by researchers from around the world since it was acquired by former faculty member Keith Porter in 1972.

"These new instruments are supported by a small fleet of exceptionally powerful personal computers that run programs developed by CU-Boulder researchers to reconstruct parts of cells in 3-D using the mathematics of tomography, just as doctors use a CAT scan or MRI to visualize the head or chest of a patient," said McIntosh. The resulting images reveal aspects of cellular organization at unprecedented resolution in 3-D.

"The Laboratory for Three-Dimensional Cell Structure uses electron microscopy to investigate the internal organization of cells," said McIntosh, who directs
the facility. "What makes the addition of these new microscopes important is
that we are able to image portions of cells in three dimensions at a resolution
that has not previously been possible."

The 3-D lab has been developing technologies with which to image cells at high resolution, using computer-facilitated image processing to reconstruct and visualize cells from a wide range of organisms from both normal and diseased states, said McIntosh.

"The images are providing scientists with a new window on the structural details of cellular organelles, thereby settling some long-standing controversies about how various cellular processes work," he said. "E

Contact: Richard McIntosh
University of Colorado at Boulder

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