Cryo-electron microscopy facility opens in Hyderabad

Hyderabad: A cryo-electron microscopy facility has been inaugurated on Friday by Dr Shekhar Mande, Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Telangana’s Hyderabad.

This makes Hyderabad the second city in India to host a modern cryo-electron microscopy facility.

In a press release, CCMC said that such a facility allows scientists to look at matter to its atomic details.

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“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 understand the coronavirus and find out potential cures,” the release read.

Dr Rajan Sankaranarayanan, an eminent structural biologist at CCMB, said that 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).

“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. The facility has been largely built in CCMB in the last two years during COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to our in-house teams,” said Dr Vinay K Nandicoori, Director, CCMB.

This facility 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.

“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 Shekhar Mande, Director-General, CSIR.

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