Science - February 16, 2006

New microscope

The Wageningen Electron Microscopy Centre has received 600,000 euros from the Dutch research financier NOW, which will enable it to acquire a new electron microscope. The new equipment can make protein molecules in plant cells visible.

Microscopist Adriaan van Aelst is pleased with the subsidy. ‘The microscope is unique in the plant research world.’ The new transmission-electron microscope, that uses tomography, is more powerful than the equipment the centre has at present. It is possible to take photos through different plane sections, which can then be combined to form a three-dimensional image of a plant cell. Plant scientists can use this technique to examine the cytoskeleton of plant cells and to measure the position of various parts of the cell with extreme accuracy. The cytoskeleton, a network of thin threads, forms the ‘road network’ of the cell and ensures that enzymes and cell parts reach the correct location in the cell. Van Aelst expects that the new microscope will help provide new information on these processes. / KV

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