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Request for an Electron Detection Camera

English title Request for an Electron Detection Camera
Applicant Cole Stewart
Number 164090
Funding scheme R'EQUIP
Research institution Global Health Institute EPFL SV-DO
Institution of higher education EPF Lausanne - EPFL
Main discipline Molecular Biology
Start/End 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2017
Approved amount 455'000.00
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Keywords (4)

Structural; Microscopy; Biology; Electron

Lay Summary (French)

Ce projet financera une caméra haute-résolution dans le but d’imager des structures moléculaires par microscopie électronique. Cette caméra sera installée sur un microscope électronique déjà opérationnel situé dans le Centre de Microscopie Electronique de l’EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), et son but premier sera l’exploration d’échantillons biologiques.
Lay summary

Buts initiaux du projet

Le but de ce projet est d’installer une caméra haute-résolution sur un cryo-microscope électronique à transmission dans le Centre de Microscopie Electronique de l’EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne). Cet appareil est conçu pour saisir les électrons qui sont utilisés pour former l’image d’un échantillon, et sa résolution est bien plus élevée que les systèmes conventionnels existants. Cette caméra sera principalement utilisée pour l’analyse de la structure de macromolécules qui sont d’importance dans la recherche en biologie cellulaire, structurale, chimique et infectieuse.

Impact sociétal de la recherche

De récents progrès dans la technologie de la microscopie électronique ont vu le développement de caméras à détection directe d’électrons qui fournissent aux biologistes la possibilité de voir la structure des molécules avec bien plus de détails qu’auparavant. L’acquisition de cet appareil pour le Centre de Microscopie Electronique de l’EPFL va permettre l’accès à cette technologie avancée à un grand nombre de groupes de recherche étudiant les processus fondamentaux de la biologie cellulaire ainsi que la découverte de médicaments. Certains projets étudient la structure et la fonction des systèmes d’injection moléculaires spécialisés communs à des bactéries et des virus et qui les aident à devenir si contagieux et virulents. Cette recherche conduira à une meilleure compréhension des mécanismes de pathogenèse et à de nouvelles idées sur la façon de lutter contre certaines des principales maladies.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 07.01.2016

Lay Summary (English)

This project will fund a high-resolution camera to be used for the imaging of molecular structures with electron microscopy. The camera will be installed on a currently operating electron microscope at the EPFL’s centre of electron microscopy and will be used primarily to explore biological samples.
Lay summary
Aims of the project at the start

The aim of this project is to install a high-resolution camera on a cryo transmission electron microscope in the electron microscopy centre of the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). This camera is designed to directly capture the electrons that are used to form the image of a sample, and has a considerably higher resolution than conventional systems. It will be used principally for the analysis of the structure of macromolecules that are of importance to cell biology, structural biology, chemical biology and infectious biology research.

Societal impact of the research

Recent advances in electron microscopy technology have seen the appearance of high-resolution ‘direct electron detecting’ cameras. These provide biologists with the opportunity to see the structure of molecules in far greater detail than was previously possible. The acquisition of this equipment at the EPFL’s Centre of Electron Microscopy will give a number of research groups access to this advanced technology. These groups are studying fundamental processes in cell biology, as well as drug discovery. Among these are projects studying the structure and function of the specialized molecular injection systems common to bacteria and viruses that helps them to become so infectious, and virulent. This research will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis and new ideas about how to combat some of the major diseases.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 07.01.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
143613 Modelling the Sequence-Dependent Multi-Scale Statistical Mechanics of DNA 01.01.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
125061 Structure-function analysis of the protein secretion system ESX-1 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 01.04.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
144243 Structure, function, and assembly of macromolecular machines involved in infection of bacterial and eukaryotic cells 01.01.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
141849 NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials: Center for Bio-Inspired Stimuli-Responsive Materials (phase I) 01.06.2014 National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs)
163324 Modelling the Sequence-Dependent Multi-Scale Statistical Mechanics of DNA, Part II 01.01.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)
146284 Molecular and structural characterization of Listeria bacteriophage-host interactions: from protein function to supermolecular structure 01.10.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
157107 Modulation of the site specificity of binding of metal-based drugs to chromatin 01.10.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)


This application is requesting funds for an electron detection camera for a transmission electron microscope that is currently installed at the EPFL Interdisciplinary Centre of Electron Microscopy (CIME). Direct electron cameras have revolutionized the field of electron microscopy of biological and other low contrast soft matter materials making it possible to record images at unprecedented resolution. The performance of these cameras has been demonstrated in a number of recent high profile papers reporting the structure of biological molecules, and large complexes, at the atomic level. This ultimate and highly sought-after level of detail allows researchers to make quantitative descriptions, and functional predictions. A camera of this type is of great importance for achieving progress in a number of scientific projects that are being carried out at the EPFL. Details of this research are given briefly in this application along with a description of the technology. The camera will be mounted onto a 200kV Tecnai F20 cryo-capable microscope (FEI Company) that was installed in the CIME in 2012. This instrument is used by trained users, and is managed on a daily basis by Dr Davide Demurtas, a scientist in the CIME. Currently, the Tecnai is equipped with a conventional CCD (4k x 4k, Eagle, FEI Company), which will be either replaced or, if possible, kept mounted to be used in less demanding applications. This camera will be the first of its kind within the Lémanique region. It will be placed in a university-wide centre of electron microscopy that houses a range of different techniques and expertise in the materials science and life science research. Its acquisition will ensure that the cryo imaging facilities are maintained at a competitive level enabling EPFL researchers to finally unlock the full potential of the Tecnai F20 microscope.