A workshop on Nature’s Method of the Year

Cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was anointed “Method of the Year 2015” by Nature Methods in January this year. This technique provides structural biologists and more specifically the X-ray diffraction and crystallography community, with a number of new, incredibly powerful approaches to determine the structure of complex macromolecules.

On the second day of the 41st Lorne Proteins Conference, the Imaging CoE organised and ran a cryo-EM workshop together with FEI Company – the global leader in manufacturing electron microscopes. Featuring speakers from FEI and the Imaging CoE, the workshop was aimed at sharing best practice methodologies in cryo-EM and covered some of the common issues facing electron microscopists around the world. The international audience was also wowed by astonishing near-atomic resolution images of single particle images obtained on the FEI Titan Krios at the Monash University.

Like with any new technology there are hurdles that need ironing out – such as those related to sample preparation and data handling and processing. Some of these issues were discussed during the workshop – Mazdak Radjainia of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Centre for Structural Cryo-Electron Microscopy at Monash University spoke about the different techniques that are being used with regard to sample prep and image reconstruction, and postdoc Cyril Reboul took the audience through the software algorithms for processing and analysing the EM data collected.

Based on the excitement generated through this workshop, it is clear that the recent advances in cryo-EM open up exciting opportunities to address previously unexplored questions in structural biology. Watch this space!