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MU Researchers Develop Advanced Three-Dimensional “Force Microscope”

January 10, 2014

Gavin King, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and joint assistant professor of biochemistry, has developed a three-dimensional microscope that will allow scientists to study membrane proteins and how they interact on the cellular level, something that has never been done before. These microscopes could help pharmaceutical companies bring drugs to market faster.

Story by: MU News Bureau

Membrane proteins are the “gatekeepers” that allow information and molecules to pass into and out of a cell. Until recently, the microscopic study of these complex proteins has been restricted due to limitations of “force microscopes” that are available to researchers and the one-dimensional results these microscopes reveal. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a three-dimensional microscope that will yield unparalleled study of membrane proteins and how they interact on the cellular level. These microscopes could help pharmaceutical companies bring drugs to market faster.

“Force microscopes are very different from the microscopes we used in biology class,” said Gavin King, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts & Science at MU, and joint assistant professor of biochemistry. “Instead of using optics, force microscopes incorporate a tiny needle that gets dragged across the surface of the slide or specimen, similar to how a blind person reads Braille or comparable to the needle of an old record player. However, the one-dimensional, traditional method of studying membrane proteins through a force microscope—while good—only yields limited results,” King said. More…