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NTU opens new cryo-electron microscopy laboratory

(Left) Asst Prof Sara Sandin and Prof Daniela Rhodes working with the new Tecnai Artica CryoEM microscope at the new Nanyang Technological University CryoEM Lab. -- PHOTO: NTU
(Left) Asst Prof Sara Sandin and Prof Daniela Rhodes working with the new Tecnai Artica CryoEM microscope at the new Nanyang Technological University CryoEM Lab. -- PHOTO: NTU

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Thursday opened its new Cryo-Electron Microscopy Laboratory.

The lab's cryo-imaging technology allows scientists to more accurately view - in a frozen state - particles half a million times smaller than a grain of rice, such as chromosomes and viruses. Its microscopes are ten times more sensitive than regular electron microscopes.

One of the lab's first efforts will be in-depth research into cancer biology and aging. Its research will be supported by a $24 million grant from the Education Ministry (MOE). NTU structural biologist Daniela Rhodes, who is leading the research, will study telomeres, the structures that cap the ends of chromosomes. She will also study an enzyme crucial in repairing telomeres, which by doing so allows the chromosomes and cells to endlessly replicate - a hallmark of cancer.

"It is our hope that with such powerful instruments, we can make new discoveries. Only by understanding the inner workings of proteins and enzymes related to aging and cancer, can we start to look for and to develop solutions to treat such conditions," said Prof Rhodes, who was formerly a scientist at Cambridge University's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK for more than four decades.