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Donation funds Super Resolution Light Microscope

 April 17, 2013 | Simon Jenkins

A financial donation from Leeds alumnus Michael Beverley (Economics and Politics 1973) has allowed Leeds to build a state-of-the-art microscope, which is being used to help scientists develop treatments for a range of conditions including heart disease and dementia.

The University’s Super Resolution Light Microscope is one of just a handful of its kind in the UK’s higher education sector. The microscope allows researchers to explore the structure of human proteins to a far greater level of detail than previous equipment allowed.

Michelle Peckham, Professor of Cell Biology at Leeds said: “It overcomes traditional limitations on what can be seen with a light microscope by building up our image dot by dot.

“This microscopic ‘pointillism’ allows us to create detailed images of structures smaller than 200 nanometres – a 5,000th of a millimetre – across, that would otherwise be too small to image clearly.

“And there are things you can do in a light microscope that you can’t do in an electron microscope. Most importantly, almost all electron microscopes work in a vacuum, so you can’t normally use live cells. If we are using live cells, we need to be looking at them through a light microscope.”

He said it was already having a big impact on University research. “We’re using it to examine the organisation of muscle proteins. This could help us unlock some of the processes at work in the mutations which cause, for example, heart disease.”

The donation has also led directly to the University winning a £1.4m grant from the Medical Research Council to develop a second type of super-resolution microscope and further strengthen its work in this area.