Ceramic Electron Microscopy Grids for Cell Culturing and Multiscale Imaging

Period of Performance: 06/01/2010 - 11/30/2010


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Synkera Technologies Inc.
2605 Trade Centre Ave, Suite C
Longmont, CO 80503
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Improved supporting technologies for imaging of molecular and supramolecular structures within cells are needed to facilitate cell biology research, and are sought by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (specifically, its Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics). Multiscale imaging, using cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) on supramolecular structures and single molecules, has proven in recent years to be a unique and invaluable method for high-throughput characterization of the dynamic 3D architecture of cells. Electron microscopy (EM) grids, used as substrates for supporting the biological and biomolecular specimens being imaged, are a critical component associated with this imaging method. New EM grid technology that decreases sample preparation cost and time, improves sample generation from culturing to freezing for cryo-ET, and increases imaging quality will allow researchers to more efficiently explore cellular architecture, at higher throughput. Synkera proposes a novel ceramic EM grid that features an integrated thin support film that is highly compatible with cell culturing, light microscopy and cryo-ET. The grids will facilitate high-throughput, multiscale imaging of sub-cellular architecture and offer key advantages over state-of-the art products. The grids are also expected to be a competitive alternative in many other EM and culturing applications. Phase I work will demonstrate feasibility of the proposed fabrication method, based on micromachined nanoporous ceramic. Phase I will also demonstrate compatibility of the proposed EM grids with cell culturing, light microscopy and cryo-EM. EM grids will be fabricated with two different integrated support film options. These grids will be compared to traditional EM grid products (gold grids with holey carbon thin film supports) in order to demonstrate greater performance for multiscale cellular and molecular imaging. At least three academic partners will aide in demonstrating these capabilities. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The project addresses imaging of molecules and cells via cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). Specifically, the target application is multiscale imaging via optical microscopy and cryo-ET of cellular, supramolecular and single-molecule structures, for generating 3D models of sub-cellular architecture. The development of a novel class of ceramic-based electron microscopy grids that facilitate this multiscale imaging is proposed. The proposed technology will offer greater capability over state-of-the-art products and help further streamline multiscale cellular imaging by simplifying the specimen preparation process and yielding superior imaging performance.