The LMB is thrilled to announce the official opening of its exhibition room, and the launch of our inaugural exhibit: ‘Setting the stage: development of sample holders for electron cryomicroscopy.’ What was once a little used, rather gloomy meeting room, has been transformed into a light, bright, engaging space. The room, next to reception, will allow us to showcase the illustrious history of the laboratory, the cutting-edge research currently underway, and provide an engaging space to interact with the local community, visiting groups, and other employees on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC).
Stephen Holmes, Head of Estates and Capital Projects, was tasked with looking at the feasibility of converting the space in 2019, and by September of that year had a plan in place to remove the existing dividing wall to open up the room. Briefings with the architects began in 2020, mainly conducted over Zoom due to the COVID-19 restrictions, as we navigated how to solve issues such as the presence of steel girders supporting the Max Perutz Lecture Theatre above, which needed to remain undisturbed and incorporated into the new design. Construction began in Autumn 2020 and interior fittings were completed in March 2021.
At the official opening of the exhibition room on Monday 28th June, Jan Löwe, Director of the LMB said ‘This is a joyous moment that has come after a lot of effort, especially since so much work had to be done remotely during the pandemic. Visitors to the building can now see the LMB’s history and learn about work currently underway.’
Setting the stage: development of sample holders for electron cryomicroscopy
Our first exhibition showcases the development of sample holders for electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM). The advancement of these holders was crucial for moving from electron microscopy to cryo-EM, which requires the preservation of the chosen specimen at temperatures below -180°C (100 Kelvin) during microscopy. By keeping the specimen so cold, researchers are able to visualise biological molecules in a near native state, and can use an increased electron dose in order to produce micrographs containing more information about the structures.
The exhibition features the first holders used at the LMB in the 1960s, displays the holders developed within the LMB in the 1980s, the later commercialised holders built following the LMB’s example, and the current commercial holders used frequently within the lab today.
Visitors to the exhibition can also learn about the scientists behind the microscopes, and see how Nigel Unwin and Jacques Dubochet utilised the 1960s holders, how Richard Henderson has improved the methodology of single particle cryo-EM (for which he was jointly awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry), and see the holders used by Chris Russo and his group, who have recently begun work on improving the quality and functionality of electron microscopes.
Please visit the LMB’s new exhibition room, and share your thoughts on the evolution of cryo-EM holders using #LMBExhibition.