Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The living lab: Navigating into cells

Date:
January 7, 2013
Source:
NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Summary:
How do viruses attach to cells? How do proteins interact and mediate infection? How do molecular machines organize themselves in healthy cells? How do they differ in diseased cells? These are the types of questions National Institutes of Health researchers ask in the recently established Living Lab for Structural Biology -- questions they strive to answer through the most sophisticated of imaging techniques.

Sriram Subramaniam, Ph.D., holds a 3D model of gp120, part of a protein complex displayed on the surface of HIV. The Living Lab aims to develop automated workflows to rapidly determine the structures of small dynamic protein complexes of this kind.
Credit: Image courtesy of NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI)

How do viruses attach to cells? How do proteins interact and mediate infection? How do molecular machines organize themselves in healthy cells? How do they differ in diseased cells? These are the types of questions National Institutes of Health researchers ask in the recently established Living Lab for Structural Biology -- questions they strive to answer through the most sophisticated of imaging techniques.

The Living Lab is an innovative partnership between NIH and FEI, an Oregon-based instrumentation company that manufactures advanced microscopes. FEI brings to the table invaluable assistance in developing and customizing electron microscopes for biological applications. Using that cutting edge technology, scientists in the Living Lab, unencumbered by any pressure to patent or otherwise protect discoveries for commercial purposes, can proceed purely driven by scientific and biomedical puzzles. Success of the Living Lab, which is on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., will rest on that collaboration between the government and the private sector -- and the idea that answering scientific questions and technical advancement go hand in hand.

"We want to navigate our way into cells and into viruses," said Sriram Subramaniam, Ph. D., director of the NIH component of the Living Lab. "We would like to be able to describe the function of complex things, such as whole cells or infectious viruses, in terms of their molecular make-up, and try to figure out how they work."

The Living Lab's advanced imaging technology allows researchers to tackle previously unanswered questions in structural biology by creating three-dimensional shapes of various molecular machines. Visualizing tiny details is a step toward understanding the molecular origins of disease. "The prospects for studying structures of a broad spectrum of medically relevant complexes at minute resolutions has changed dramatically in recent years with advances in structural biology," said Subramaniam. "Our goal with the Living Lab is to capture the synergy between all of these methods including the latest advances in cryo-electon microscopy to extend these advances to key scientific challenges in modern structural biology."

Subramaniam, who earned his doctorate at Stanford University and did post-doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in chemistry and biology, directs the research activities of the Living Lab, in close consultation with other team members from FEI and from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The Living Lab is, in many ways, an evolution of work he has long led in the Laboratory of Cell Biology in NCI's Center for Cancer Research. Subramaniam and his colleagues are at the forefront of their field, using high-powered electron microscopes to create 3-D maps of proteins, viruses, and cells, including HIV and cancer cells.

What the Living Lab offers is more capacity, more expertise, and more technology. It is, says Subramaniam, an opportunity for the NIH to make real breakthroughs, imaging proteins at higher resolutions, and understanding the structures of more challenging molecules. "This lab is unique because the science is so interdisciplinary. The things that we do, the science here, benefits from expertise drawn across the campus and across the world."

A Titan Krios transmission electron microscope, one of the world's most powerful commercially-available electron microscopes, is at the heart of the Living Lab. The microscope, a two-story, two-toned box that holds and insulates temperature-controlled components, rises from floor to ceiling. The Krios can collect data with a high degree of automation and can be operated remotely, taking pictures of proteins and other biological assemblies on its own for days at a time, without human intervention.

Cryo-electron microscopy of this type has gained popularity in structural biology research because it allows for the observation of specimens that have not been stained or fixed in any way, presenting them in their native environment. Previous technologies, Subramaniam explains, have been analogous to "destroying a house in order to describe the building that used to be there." With this enhanced technology and better software, scientists can capture important details before proteins are damaged, allowing much more detail to be resolved.

Subramaniam describes his team as basic scientists looking to figure out how proteins work. But the Living Lab is pushing that forward, broadening the scope of the types of protein and protein assemblies that can be studied. As they push the capabilities of the technology, the team will be moving ever closer to answering those big, biological questions, one protein at a time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI). The original article was written by Jennie Bragg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI). "The living lab: Navigating into cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130107081535.htm>.
NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI). (2013, January 7). The living lab: Navigating into cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130107081535.htm
NIH, National Cancer Institute (NCI). "The living lab: Navigating into cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130107081535.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins