WHAT IS CRYO-EM?
Proteins are the basic machinery of life. They are the targets of pharmaceuticals. We need to know what they look like to understand how they go wrong and how to develop the correct drugs to treat diseases caused by their malfunction. Cryo-electron microscopes flash-freeze proteins in motion and then use a beam of electrons to visualize what those proteins look like. Three-dimensional images of proteins result, providing the detail of how they function and if needed, how to design a drug to aid that function if it has gone wrong. Prior to Cryo-EM technology, the gold-standard technique for visualizing a protein was X-ray crystallography. This process, which requires coaxing biological machines into crystals, historically had very poor success rates. Cryo-EM turns that on its head, and success is much more probable than failure for many of the samples important for health.
Technology has taken a huge leap forward, and Cryo-EM instruments permit the study of life and disease like never before.
CRYO-EM HAS ACCELERATED DISCOVERY TIMES FROM WHAT HAS BEEN DECADES, IN SOME INSTANCES, TO MONTHS OR LESS. FOR EXAMPLE, I T HAS ALREADY MADE A DRAMATIC IMPACT IN THE STUDY OF ZIKA V IRUS AND ALZHEIMER’S. THE 2017 NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY WAS AWARDED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS TECHNOLOGY.
WHY DO WE STUDY PROTEINS? ONCE WE UNDERSTAND WHAT A PROTEIN LOOKS LIKE, WE HAVE INSIGHT INTO HOW IT WORKS, OR WHEN IT DOESN’T WORK CORRECTLY, WHY THAT IS SO. THIS INFORMATION PROVIDES OPTIONS TO DEVELOP NEW DRUGS. THESE DESIGNED DRUGS CAN HELP OUR BODY WORK MORE EFFECTIVELY AND PROVIDE TREATMENT AND CURES FOR DISEASES SUCH AS CANCER.
HOW IT WORKS
Electron beams pass through samples
containing millions of key proteins that have
been frozen in a variety of placements.
The Cryo-EM microscope captures
two-dimensional images of each protein,
and analysis of these images permits research
teams to reconstruct their structures in 3D.
CRYO-EM WILL GENERATE COLLABORATION
The addition of a Cryo-EM center in the Western New York region to look at proteins will be an important and dynamic advancement for numerous partners, including HWI, but also the University of Rochester Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, the BNMC, and many others including industry partners.
“Cryo-EM is recognized as one of the most essential and transformative technologies in the life sciences,” said Dr. Dirk Bohmann, Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, University of Rochester Medical Center. “Yet, the capacity to access the technique directly in the regional Western New York area is currently lacking.”
Through this initiative, HWI is creating a bold, self-sustaining center to impact healthcare, while simultaneously forming collaborations linking fundamental research to clinical applications. HWI will bring together our region’s brightest minds and strongest organizations to facilitate advanced research among several disciplines. This center will attract intellectual and financial capital to Buffalo and will expand the growing WNY bio-tech ecosystem. Having Cryo-EM in our region will be a magnet to recruit top research scientists, this technology is essential for the future. The center will permit proprietary access for small, medium and large biotech companies to maximize the investment in the resource. Access to the instruments by industry helps make them affordable for our academic and non-profit groups.
HWI and others believe that the center is primed to become the regional resource for this transformative technology covering all of Western New York, Western PA, Ohio and Southern Ontario. With this technology, discoveries that once would impact our children and grandchildren could now impact us in the near future. Once unattainable answers now become galvanizing cures-not for tomorrow, but for today.
FOR MORE THAN 60 YEARS the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) has been a leading force in the field of structural biology to improve human health by studying the causes of diseases, as well as potential therapies, at their basic molecular level. Propelled by the groundbreaking work of Dr. Herbert Hauptman, the Institute has used crystallography to study proteins—the machines in our bodies—to, ultimately, improve the way we research, diagnose, and treat diseases.
HWI is establishing a center utilizing a disruptive technology, Cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM), at its home on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). This center will bring both groundbreaking medical discoveries to the Campus and its partners, as well as drive economic stimulus toward which BNMC and its partners strive. HWI is in the process of acquiring its first Cryo-EM microscope, with the ultimate goal of acquiring additional microscopes. Access to this technology will permit HWI and the Buffalo Niagara region to remain at the cutting edge in this area. A fully equipped center will further the reputation of the BNMC as being a destination for all aspects of research from fundamental to clinical and from non-profit to corporate.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
HWI is weaving together a tapestry of philanthropic, grant, and institutional funding to support this project. Please contact Lisa LaTrovato at email@example.com or at 716.898.8624 to see how you can become part of this tremendous advancement for our region.