Multi-purpose Transmission Electron Microscope for Wolfson Bioimaging Facility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Biochemistry


Bioimaging, the investigation of cells, tissues and organisms by microscopy, is a key technology in life science research. Electron microscopes enable scientists to get structural information about cell components at nanometre scale in specially preserved cells and tissues, and at atom-level in isolated proteins preserved by specialised freezing techniques. A transmission electron microscope (TEM) forms images by detecting electron beam after it passes through material and is a widely used technique in many fields of biology and biomedicine. The University of Bristol has a leading bioimaging facility with TEMs housed alongside specialised light microscopes that are designed to locate fluorescent molecules inside cells and tissues. Bristol's researchers and visitors from other universities and commercial companies exploit the advantages of both types of microscope to explore cellular dynamics by light microscopy, then fine resolution of cell architecture by TEM. Increasingly our researchers are also learning about 3D architecture of cells and proteins using specialised electron microscopy techniques. Together, these techniques support a wide range of research activities to understand and exploit the rules of life. Unfortunately, such instruments become unreliable as they age and the typical lifespan is ~15 years. Our very heavily used instruments are already 15 years old, have become increasingly unreliable in recent months and support is no longer available from the manufacturer to maintain them in sufficiently reliable state to enable efficient progress of our users' research. For these reasons, we are seeking funds to replace our current 2 TEM instruments with a single multi-purpose instrument capable of supporting a broad range of research projects in Bristol University, neighbouring universities and our growing external user base reliant on this important bioimaging technique.

Technical Summary

The Wolfson Bioimaging Facility (WBF) has an excellent reputation for providing EM support for a broad range of world class research projects across cell, tissue, organism, structural and synthetic biology. Ready access to reliable transmission electron microscopy (TEM) for ultrastructural analysis is a core requirement for much of this research, including as a critical component of CLEM, structural biology and volume EM workflows. As our current TEMs are ageing and increasingly unreliable we need to rejuvenate TEM to maintain provision of this essential imaging modality for the next 15+ years. We are applying here for funds to acquire a Talos L120C 120kV TEM with Ceta-S camera, cryo-attachments, and tomography and EPU screening software. With this modern instrument we will consolidate functionality currently spread across two TEMs onto a single multi-purpose instrument, with sufficient capacity to cater for the current user base and reasonable estimate of expansion in coming years. The TEM will be housed in existing WBF space, and its users supported by our exceptionally skilled EM support team. By replacing ageing instruments this application aims to maintain WBF's standing as a critical TEM resource for multiple projects and enable us to expand our user base within the University of Bristol and other institutions, including other members of the GW4 University alliance and UWE. This will not only support multiple world-class research projects across cell biology, structural biology and synthetic biology communities but also provide vital training of the next generation of scientists, enabled by the central position of WBF resources for multiple PhD programmes and the training WBF provides for researchers at all stages of their careers.


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