Resolution Revolution At UT Southwestern Medical Center

Cutting-edge technology is giving medical researchers a new window on cellular structure and function that could lead to new treatments for cancer and other diseases.

Researchers say the more you can see, the more you can fix. 

“You see more detail, you see blobby structures and you see more details in the top structure,” said Daniela Nicastro, Ph.D., an associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Seeing is believing in the new $17 million cryo-electron microscope center in Dallas, the first of its kind in America.

“The microscopes that we’ve now put into place at UT Southwestern will allow us to image at the level of atoms. Single atoms,” explained Sandra Schmid, Ph.D., Chair Cell Biology of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The titan krios stands 12 and a half feet tall. Three-hundred thousand volts shoot a column of electrons through a frozen sample to create detailed 3D images of cells captured with two times more resolution on highly advanced cameras. The samples are flash frozen to minus 325 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid crystallization.

“This will absolutely help to make better drugs, because we will understand at a very high resolution how chemical reactions occur,” said Michael Rosen, Ph.D., Chair, Biophysics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The microscopes will be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week by researchers studying disease at the cellular level.

For example, by seeing in greater detail than ever before how cancer cells behave, researchers can attack them more effectively with fewer side effects.

“The payoff is going to be understanding in discovering and designing the drugs that cure disease,” Schmid reports.

Researchers say one of the initial studies will focus on how cells repair mutations and prevent the development of cancer.  

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