CCMB gets cryo-electron microscopy facility

To take scientists closer to understanding structural details of living cells and drive drug discovery

March 26, 2022 07:01 pm | Updated 07:01 pm IST - HYDERABAD

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has got a cutting-edge facility for cryo-electron microscopy, only the second in the country, which enable scientists to take a close look at molecules such as proteins towards understanding the structural details of living cells and drive drug discovery.

In the past two years, such insights have enabled the scientists and pharmaceutical industries to understand the coronavirus and find potential cures. CSIR director-general Shekhar Mande opened the facility on the institute premises in the presence of director Vinay K. Nandicoori.

“The modern cryo-electron microscopy facility is expected to help us 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),” said structural biologist Rajan Sankaranarayanan,

“The facility on CCMB’s campus is funded by the CSIR and has been built during the COVID pandemic by our in-house teams. It will be accessible to researchers in CCMB, other CSIR labs, research institutes, universities and also to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, of which Hyderabad is a major hub,” said Mr. Nandicoori.

The cryo-electron microscopy will allow working with samples at cryogenic temperatures, around -173 ᵒC, and photographing individual molecules using the electron microscope. 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, he explained.

Mr. Mande stated that 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 a press release.

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