History and development of the microscope


Professor John Schwabe led a region-wide bit to the MRC / Wellcome Trust to establish anew state-of-the art facility in Leicester. The combined contributions from MRC, UoL and regional partners (Universities of Warwick, Birmingham and Nottingham) adds up to a £6.4 million-pound investment in the new facility at Leicester and establishes Leicester as the regional Cryo-EM facility.

Importance of the microscope

Electron Microscopy is a long established scientific technique; the prototype electron microscope was built in 1931. Electron microscopes uses a beam of accelerated electrons rather visible light as the source of illumination to look at objects, allowing scientists to view objects much smaller than can be seen with light microscopes.

Recently there has been a revolution in the Cryo-Electron Microscopy. This has been driven by developments in the microscopes themselves, the camera systems, and in the computational methods used to process the images. This has allowed the latest generation of Cryo-EM's to generate 3 dimensional structures of bio-molecules in exquisite detail. This technological enhancement enables scientists to to under stand the mechanisms through which molecular machines in our cells perform to the key functions of life fit. This can lead to understanding disease processes and how best to address them.

This new state-of-the-art facility helps us to drive forward our cutting-edge research. The cryo-electron microscope allows us to examine biological structures such as proteins, nucleic acids, viruses and even bacteria at the molecular level and in 3D. This new insight into the structures of cellular machines will allow us to understand the molecular mechanisms defining their function and will help us to create new drugs which could treat diseases and disorders.

The facility at Leicester

The facility at Leicester is one of the powerful instruments of this type. It is centred around a state-of-the-art 300kV cyro-electron microscope, with the latest generation detecting cameras. The facility also boasts the state of the art computation infrastructure (based around powerful GPU's) necessary to process the very large (>1TB /day) amounts of generated by these instruments.

Located in the Henry Wellcome building. Establishing the facility required some highly complex refurbishment works to deliver the lab space and environmental conditions for the microscope to function properly.