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The Boulder Laboratory for 3-D Electron Microscopy of Cells

Andreas Hoenger, Ph.D.

Center Overview

The Boulder laboratory for 3-D electron microscopy of cells has functioned as a NCRR funded research resource since 1970. The lab has been successful in developing methods for imaging diverse cells and tissues in three dimensions (3-D) at a resolution of ~ 5 nm. The numerous features of cell structure that become visible at this level are highly informative about the mechanisms that underlie cellular processes.

The overall strategy of the current research in the lab can be described as "Placing Molecules into Cells" with a clear focus on advancing cell biology by developing imaging technologies that will allow us to study a functional cell in 3-D at the best possible resolution. While fully exploiting the achievements of tomography on samples prepared by rapid freezing (vitrification) and freeze substitution fixation (RF-FSF), as carried out in several collaborations and numerous service projects, we turn our focus to cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and molecular structures.

Impact on Human Health

Curing a pathologic condition requires detailed molecular knowledge of the healthy state, which is a major goal of pre-clinical biomedical research like the work of our lab. Nevertheless, several of our collaborations are directly relevant to an understanding of pathologic processes in humans, such as our large-scale structural analyses of cardiomyocytes and of virus entry and replication. The data we will obtain will constitute an essential understanding of cellular processes that may lead to new cures and treatments of many diseases.