August 4, 2008 -- FEI Company (Hillsboro, OR; Nasdaq: FEIC) and Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (Martinsried, Germany) today announced that they are collaborating on a correlative microscopy product to advance the study of biological samples under cryo conditions. The goal is to enable scientists to quickly and easily acquire high-resolution transmission electron microscope (TEM) images of molecular entities that they initially discover using optical microscopy techniques. Shipments are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008.
The correlative microscope was developed by Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry, a leading biochemical research institution. FEI, a provider of high-resolution imaging and analysis systems, will market and distribute the instrument worldwide.
The unit includes a cryo-correlative stage for optical microscopes and associated software. The partner companies promise that once researchers can identify features of interest using optical techniques, they can quickly transfer the features' precise coordinates to the TEM -- which can then navigate automatically to the specified location to acquire high-resolution images of the designated structure.
"Optical techniques, such as fluorescent probes, can identify and localize features of interest in biological specimens with extremely high sensitivity and specificity, but optical microscopy cannot resolve the feature's structure," said Professor Wolfgang Baumeister, director at the MPI of Biochemistry. "The solution we are developing will allow researchers to use optical techniques to identify targets, then transfer the sample and grid coordinates to a TEM and automatically navigate to those targets to obtain high-resolution images, maintaining the sample in a frozen, hydrated state throughout the entire process."
"TEM can provide two-dimensional images and three-dimensional reconstructions of biological materials with nanometer-scale resolution, sufficient to resolve the tertiary and quaternary structure of proteins and essential features of other macromolecules and molecular complexes," said Matthew Harris, vice president and general manager of FEI's Life Sciences Division. "However, without the localization provided by optical techniques, finding those molecules is extremely difficult. Think of it as trying to find a particular string of glass beads in a barrel full of beads. With correlative microscopy, you can use techniques such as fluorescent markers to light up the string you are interested in, and then go back to the same location for a closer look with the TEM."
In addition to the commercial release of the cryo-correlative stage, MPI of Biochemistry and FEI will implement a program designed to solicit participation from leading life science researchers in the further definition of correlative microscopy applications and methods. Through participation in the program researchers will have access to a correlative stage for extended use in their own ongoing experimental programs, thus affording the research community with opportunities to better understand the benefits of correlative microscopy as they help refine requirements for future solutions.
"We believe that the guidance we receive from user participants in this innovative development program will significantly enhance the practical value of future correlative microscopy solutions. Our collaborative approach with MPI of Biochemistry and individual researchers demonstrates the importance FEI places on interaction with leaders in the field in the design of new products and methods," said Dr. Wim Voorhout, product marketing manager in FEI's Life Sciences Division.