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Cryo-electron microscopy facility at CCMB to boost research

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Hyderabad, March 25 (IANS) Cryo-electron microscopy will help address some of the very fundamental and exciting problems of biology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Director General, Dr Shekhar Mande, said on Friday.

He was speaking after inaugurating a cutting-edge facility for cryo-electron microscopy at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here. This makes Hyderabad the second city in India to host a modern cryo-electron microscopy facility.

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Such a facility allows scientists to look at matter to its atomic details. A close look at molecules such as proteins have been at the forefront of understanding the structural details of living cells and drive drug discovery. In the last two years, such insights have enabled the scientists and pharmaceutical industries to understand the coronavirus and find out potential cures.

This facility will allow working with samples at cryogenic temperatures, around minus 173 degrees Celsius, and photographing individual molecules using the electron microscope.

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This, in addition to the confocal microscopy, NMR spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction facilities at CCMB, makes it a formidable facility for researchers to look into details of living cells like never before, scientists said.

“Structural biology techniques have advanced greatly in the last four decades. From needing a year to collect and making sense of each data point to doing it in a few seconds now, the power is enormous. The chasm between structural and cellular biology is diminishing, and this will allow addressing some of the very fundamental and exciting problems of biology with techniques like cryo-electron microscopy,” said Dr Mande.

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According to Dr Rajan Sankaranarayanan, an eminent structural biologist at CCMB, the modern cryo-electron microscopy facility is expected to help view the functioning of several molecular machines that operate in the cell that were earlier not amenable to conventional structure determination methods such as X-ray crystallography or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR).

“The facility on CCMB’s campus is funded by the CSIR. It will be accessible to researchers in CCMB, other CSIR labs as well as in other research institutes and universities. It will also be available to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, of which Hyderabad is a major hub,” CCMB Director, Dr Vinay K. Nandicoori, said.

He said the facility was largely built in the CCMB in the last two years during Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to in-house teams.

–IANS

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