Scientists and students publish plans for a cheaper single-molecule microscope



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A team of scientists and students from the University of Sheffield designed and built a specialized microscope and shared construction instructions to make this equipment available to many laboratories around the world.

The microscope, called the smfBox, is capable of making measurements of single molecules allowing scientists to look at one molecule at a time instead of generating an average result from bulk samples, and it works exactly like commercially available instruments.

This single molecule method is currently only available in a few specialized laboratories around the world due to the cost of commercially available microscopes.

Today (November 6, 2020), the team published an article in the magazine Nature Communications which provides all the building instructions and software needed to run the microscope, to help make this single molecule method accessible to laboratories around the world.

The interdisciplinary team comprising the Departments of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Sheffield and the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have spent a relatively modest £ 40,000 to build a kit that normally costs around £ 400,000 to purchase.

The microscope was built with simplicity in mind so that researchers interested in biological problems can use it with little training, and the lasers have been shielded in such a way that they can be used under normal lighting conditions and are no more dangerous than a CD player.

Dr. Tim Craggs, the academic head of the project at the University of Sheffield, said: “We wanted to democratize measurements of single-use molecules to make this method available to many laboratories, not just a few laboratories around the world. This work requires what it was a very expensive specialist kit and provides each lab with the design and software to build it themselves, at a fraction of the cost.

“Many medical diagnostics are moving towards greater sensitivity and there is nothing more sensitive than single molecule detection. In fact, many new COVID tests currently under development work at this level. This tool is a good point of focus. departure for further developments towards a new medical diagnosis. “

The original smfBox was built by a team of academics and university students from the University of Sheffield.

Ben Ambrose, the Ph.D. project leader, said: “This project has been an excellent opportunity to work with researchers at all levels, from undergraduates to scientists in national facilities. Between biophysicists and engineers, we have created a new, accessible platform to do some cutting-edge science without We’re already starting to do a great job with this microscope ourselves, but I’m excited to see what it will do in the hands of other labs that have already started building their own. ” .

The University of Sheffield Craggs Lab has already used smfBox in its research to investigate fundamental biological processes, such as DNA damage detection, where better understanding in this field could lead to better therapies for diseases including cancer.

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More information:
Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-19468-4

Provided by the University of Sheffield

Quote: Scientists and Students Publish Blueprints for Cheaper Single Molecule Microscope (2020, November 6) retrieved November 6, 2020 from html

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