An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Nov. 14, 2022

New Capability: The Cryo-EM

By Tyra Breaux Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

The WRAIR cryogenic electron microscope (Cryo-EM) is the newest capability in the Emerging Infectious Disease Branch and is unique within the Department of Defense. It will enable WRAIR and other DOD researchers, the ability to rapidly determine the high-resolution 3D structure of viruses, proteins, antibodies and drugs. Techniques that will be used on the Cryo-EM includes single particle analysis, cryogenic electron tomography and in the future also microcrystal electron diffraction.

Samples can be imaged without requiring extensive preparation steps and the automation system allows for 12 samples to be tested back-to-back. 2D images are captured by a direct electron detector as a video to account for the motion changes of atoms. The resolution of 1.2 Å results in an exact view of the atoms positions within the sample. The 2D X-ray images from the outside and inside of the samples get aligned to create a 3D image of the sample. Since the imaging and structuring can be done at the same time, the process to obtain a 3D structure is reduced from hours to days compared to months to years that it can take with traditional methods. Researchers will be able to start and complete projects in a much faster time frame. This will allow WRAIR to respond quickly to future epidemics and other emerging infectious disease threats.

Planned Studies FY23:
- Pan-CoV and antibody development WRAIR
- Dengue NS1 vaccine and antibody development WRAIR
- Marburg virus and alphavirus antibody development