Since its invention in the 1980s, the UK has led developments in cryo-electron microscopy – a technique allowing scientists to zoom in on the inner-workings of tiny molecules. A new imaging centre at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research is now expanding the UK’s powerful microscope offering. Director Professor David Bhella shares his grand plans.
So what exactly is cryo-electron microscopy?
Cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM for short, is a powerful microscope technique. It’s different from imaging with normal microscopes as it uses beams of electrons, instead of light. Structural biologists use this technique to take pictures of biological samples at near-atomic scale, frozen in their natural state. It’s a faster and more effective way of looking deep inside molecules compared to other structural biology tools. Read more
Dr Emilie Pondeville, Research Associate at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, works with one of the world’s most renowned tropical insects – the mosquito. To mark World Mosquito Day on 20 August, she describes what it’s like to work in an insectary and explains the importance of research in mosquitoes.
Like many people, I don’t really like insects. But mosquitoes are different.
I work with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, known for transmitting diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue fever. Not every species needs a blood meal to reproduce. But the ones we rear are anautogenous, meaning they must feed to mature their eggs.
How do you diagnose the Ebola virus in places that until recently had very little healthcare infrastructure? Just behind the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, volunteers are running laboratories diagnosing Ebola cases. In late 2014 two PhD students in Professor Richard Elliott’s group from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research spent five weeks in Sierra Leone helping to set up an Ebola diagnostic laboratory. Here Gillian Slack and Steve Welch explain their experience.
Steve in his personal protective equipment
As virology PhD students with backgrounds in laboratory diagnostics, we both have experience of using blood, urine and saliva samples to diagnose tropical infectious diseases. We wanted to put those skills to good use in Sierra Leone.
We were part of a group of 14 volunteers from the UK travelling to Kerry Town in Sierra Leone where a treatment centre for Ebola patients was being established.
We received intensive training at the Public Health England labs in Porton Down, where they had built a scale replica of the lab we would be using. As well as the training, we also had numerous vaccinations and medical and psychological assessments before we were cleared to deploy.