Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: The only transmission microscope in Chile arrives at UC to strengthen regional research

The TALOS TEM transmission microscope is the most recent high-tech equipment acquired by the Advanced Microscopy Unit (UMA ) of the Research Support Platform (PAI) Universidad Católica. This equipment is mainly characterized by making rapid acquisitions of 3D images, both of biological samples and biomaterials.

The state-of-the-art equipment that corresponds to the original model F200C G2, replaces the Tecnai Transmission Electron Microscope, which was in operation for 20 years.

In an important joint effort between the faculties of Biological Sciences , Medicine, Engineering and the UC Christus Health Network , and managed by the academic coordinator, Professor Verónica Eisner and Dean Juan Correa, with the support of an academic committee and technical specialists , the team after almost two years as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and innumerable efforts after a complex installation process, finally had its official inauguration in January.

In a private ceremony on the premises of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, which was attended by Dr. Katherina Psathaki, electron microscopy researcher at the Center of Cellular Nanoanalytics Osnabruck, in Germany . Her visit made it possible to share experiences and appreciate how microscopy is developing in a place where applied research is more advanced.

“This is a long story, full of efforts and perseverance of a human team that dreamed of bringing this equipment to UC and that finally, with all the insecurities and uncertainties encountered until the last moment, found the solutions that make its launch possible today. ”- dean of Biological Sciences Juan Correa.

A little history
TEM microscopy (for its acronym in English to refer to a transmission electron microscope), has always been highly requested, both by researchers and pathologists for diagnosis of biopsies.

The Talos microscope corresponds to a new generation of equipment, more automated and modern, that allows the implementation of new techniques such as 3D reconstruction by tomography, acquisition with low doses of electrons in sensitive samples and correlative microscopy, which allows coupling fluorescence microscopy techniques with the high resolution of electron microscopy: it has a field emission filament that allows the equipment to operate with a voltage acceleration of up to 200kw, thus reaching a magnification of 910kX.

The microscope also has a system called Low-Dose Exposure that minimizes the damage caused by the electron beam in the samples, this means that it has the necessary programs, both for the automated acquisition of tomography and for the visualization and analysis of these . These characteristics are what motivated dean Juan Correa and professors Mónica Vásquez and Verónica Eisner to manage its acquisition with institutional contributions to contribute to the development of new lines of research at UC, strengthening it as a center of education, research and innovation.

“This microscope is very versatile and is aimed at a wide range of pathology or research users, whether in the areas of cell biology, biomaterials and nanotechnology”, comments Nicole Salgado, technical coordinator at UMA . “That is why the objectives of this important acquisition include: updating the transmission electron microscopy equipment, integrating new technologies into research work such as 3-dimensional images or EM tomography; and strengthen undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in advanced electron microscopy technologies”, she notes.

“That is why the objectives of this important acquisition include: updating the transmission electron microscopy equipment, integrating new technologies into research work such as 3-dimensional images or EM tomography; and strengthen undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in advanced electron microscopy technologies”- Nicole Salgado, technical coordinator of the UMA

Quite a work of engineering
“Two and a half tons! How could we take a monster of this size and in a delicate way to the underground without anything happening to it?” Nicole Salgado recalls with a laugh, referring to the installation of the TALOS microscope.

The year was 2019… C arl Lüders, engineer and professor at the UC Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering , after a conversation with deans Juan Correa (Biological Sciences) and Juan Carlos de la Llera (Engineering) , had accepted the challenge of allocate a new space outside the UMA facilities to accommodate the new team, precisely in the basement of building 210.

The adaptation of the new room to accommodate this giant of two and a half tons, was carried out in 2019 and involved complex technical specifications, due to the mechanical and electromagnetic insulation requirements of the equipment. The challenge of designing and calculating the structure that would allow a large equipment to be lowered made it essential to have a 3-meter-high, 2.5-ton equipment, from the entrance slab of the Faculty, to the basement of building 210. It should be noted that this work had the support of Manuel Latud, from the Faculty’s Maintenance Unit, and the support of the UC Infrastructure Department.

“Having this team allows us to advance in frontier research and this is essential because we have always wanted to do quality science in Chile and from Chile” – Verónica Eisner, UMA academic coordinator.

This is how, in February 2020, the entry of the team from outside the campus to its destination was carried out for the first time, an activity that was led by the Center for Scientific and Technological Research (DICTUC).

“This is a long story, full of efforts and perseverance of a human team that dreamed of bringing this equipment to UC and that finally, with all the insecurities and uncertainties encountered until the last moment, found the solutions that make its launch possible today. ”, emphasizes Dean Juan Correa.

Although the team became fully operational from mid-March 2020, it was not until November 2020 that the UMA technical staff began to be trained and in January 2022 its launch was made official by the FCB Research Directorate . due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For PAI, implementing strategies that allow the incorporation of state-of-the-art equipment is essential to continue offering quality services that respond to the current needs of users, as well as expanding our network of internal and external stakeholders, who can benefit from these services”- Carolina Oliú, executive coordinator of the UC platforms.

Remote assistance and regional impact
“Having this team allows us to advance in frontier research and this is essential because we have always wanted to do quality science in Chile and from Chile,” were the words of Professor Verónica Eisner, academic coordinator of the UMA, during the launch of TALOS, on January 18, 2022.

The new microscope offers the national and international scientific and productive community the most advanced techniques in electron microscopy. Research and technological development capacity is available in very few parts of the region; Moreover, among the users who have requested the services, there are technicians from Peru, since it allows remote assistance.

“For PAI, implementing strategies that allow the incorporation of state-of-the-art equipment is essential to continue offering quality services that respond to the current needs of users, as well as expanding our network of internal and external stakeholders, who can benefit from these services”, comments Carolina Oliú, executive coordinator of the UC platforms.

Research and technological development capacity is available in very few parts of the region; Moreover, among the users who have requested the services, there are technicians from Peru, since it allows remote assistance.

The event, which was attended by authorities from the UC, was held in the facilities of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, in the Abate Molina Auditorium. In addition, it was possible to see the inauguration live, on the UMA YouTube channel.

It should be noted that the presence of Dr. Katherina Psathaki at the inauguration of TALOS was made possible thanks to contributions from the Directorate of the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the company Genexpress, representatives of ThermoScientific.

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