Cryogenic-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) has been a game changer in the field of medical research, but the substrate, used to freeze and view samples under a microscope, has not advanced much in decades. Now, thanks to a collaboration between Penn State researchers and the applied science company Protochips, Inc., this is no longer the case.
“The traditional type of grid hasn’t changed much since the inception of cryo-EM, while materials science has changed vastly,” said Deb Kelly, a professor of biomedical engineering at Penn State and director of the Center for Structural Oncology (CSO). “Our team, along with other colleagues in the field, had the idea to try new materials as a means to improve upon current practices.”
Problems with traditional carbon grids with holes include uneven surfaces when ice forms across the grid, which requires adjusting imaging routines many times; the grid materials expanding at different thermal rates; and failure of the specimens to find their way into the grid holes, wasting what is often limited samples.