27. Feb. 2023

From 20 to 26 March 2023, the Days of Electron Microscopy (DEM) will be held in Brno for the sixth time. Electron microscopy is a modern and very powerful imaging technology that allows scientists to observe the nanoworld. It is used in various fields, including materials science, biology, chemistry and nanotechnology. Electron microscopy is an essential tool for scientists and researchers who need to study the structure and properties of samples at the atomic and molecular levels. Brno is one of the three world centres of electron microscopy, and more than a third of all electron microscopes in the world come from Brno. In addition to domestic research centres, NASA and Harvard University use electron microscopes made in Brno. A glimpse into the nanoworld using electron microscopes is a breathtaking experience not only for scientists!

Days of Electron Microscopy attract many curious science and technology enthusiasts, students or families looking for an unusual educational experience every year. Also, this year, visitors will have a unique opportunity to visit otherwise inaccessible state-of-the-art laboratories and learn about the peculiarities of the microworld or find out what it is like to work in the science and technology field.

If you decide to celebrate the Days of Electron Microscopy with us at CEITEC, you will be introduced to one of our most unique instruments - the Titan Krios electron microscope. Cryo-electron microscopy (shortly cryoEM) is a modern, sophisticated technology used to determine the three-dimensional structures of biological molecules such as proteins and viruses. This technology can achieve unprecedented resolution down to the level of individual atoms. It is particularly useful for studying large and complex molecular assemblies that are difficult to capture with other technologies.  CryoEM can also reveal dynamic structural changes.

CryoEM technology has revolutionised structural biology, allowing scientists to gain new insights into how cells function and explained previously unknown mechanisms of many diseases. And it is the Titan Krios microscope that has played a significant role in the development of this technology. Samples are inserted into this microscope in a frozen state to preserve their natural structure. The Titan Krios microscope costs several million euros and its maintenance is also very expensive. Experienced technicians can use the Titan Krios microscope to determine unknown structures of individual proteins or viruses. Scientists from CEITEC MU have solved the structure of several unknown virus structures using cryo-EM. Their unique expertise is highly respected in the international virology community.

In addition to viruses, scientists at CEITEC also study bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are special types of viruses that are natural predators of bacteria. Bacteriophages have long been considered as a potential therapeutic agent that could be used against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteriophages attack bacteria in a similar way that influenza viruses attack human cells. They latch onto the surface of a particular organism, insert their genetic information into it, and the bacterium becomes a factory for new bacteriophages. After this, a bacterial infection is effectively wiped out by a viral infection without harming the person.

Knowing the structure of viruses is essential for understanding the mechanisms of infection. Viruses are responsible for many infectious diseases, and their structure can provide information about how they enter and infect cells, replicate, and evade the host immune system. This information can be used to develop new antiviral drugs and vaccines targeting a particular virus and its unique structure. For example, the structure of the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has helped scientists develop vaccines that elicit an immune response against this protein.

Cryo-electron microscopes are also used to study the evolution of viruses. Viruses can mutate rapidly, creating new strains and potentially new pandemics. Understanding the structure of different strains can help scientists track their evolution and identify new targets for drug and vaccine development. Studying the structures of viruses provides fundamental insights into cellular function and molecular mechanisms. Many of the special techniques developed to study viruses have wider applications in structural biology and biotechnology.

The Core Facility of Cryo-electron Microscopy and Tomography at CEITEC Masaryk University will be open to the public for one whole afternoon on 25 March 2023.  From 12.00 to 16.00, the visitors will be able to attend a guided tour of the Cryo-EM Core Facility with its unique Titan Krios microscope and to see 3D models of several viruses that were solved by CEITEC scientists using this unique technology. The tours occur every hour, starting at 12.00, 13.00, 14.00 and 15.00. The maximum capacity per tour is 20 people.

Visiting the Cryo-electron microscopy laboratory is only possible for registered visitors. Please arrive at CEITEC MU (entrance from Studentská Street) 15 minutes before the booked guided tour.



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