University of Wollongong unveils powerful new Talos Arctica microscope

The first ‘’exciting’’ step for the University of Wollongong’s journey towards its $80 million Molecular Horizons initiative was marked on Friday.

The world leading life-science research centre is still a couple of years away but the unveiling of the powerful new FEI ThermoFisher Talos Arctica microscope was welcomed by scientists and researchers alike, as it will open new doors to fighting disease .

The high-resolution cryo-electron Talos Arctica microscope is the first of its kind in Australia. 

World-renowned molecular biophysicist Professor Antoine van Oijen, who leads an interdisciplinary team of UOW researchers looking at ways to address antimicrobial resistance, was positively beaming about the microscope.

‘’It is a microscope that uses electrons to look at really small stuff, in particular at the protein molecules that do all the important jobs in the cells in our body,’’ Prof van Oijen said.

‘’And why this is important is because, when we are able to take pictures of these proteins, which this microscope is able to do, we can design better drugs that will interact with these proteins and cure disease.

Using this sort of technology, we should be able to design new anti biotics to outsmart the bugs again so stay ahead of that curve.

Professor Alison Jones

‘’So this is basic science being able to take pictures of proteins that will allow us to develop better cures and their treatments.

‘’A protein molecule is roughly a million times smaller than the thickness of a human hair so you need some pretty special microscopical tools to be able to see the fine detail of how such a protein is put together.’’ 

Already being used by UOW researchers, Talos Arctica will work in tandem with the even more powerful FEI Thermo Fisher Titan Krios when that microscope begins operating in early 2018.

The Titan Krios will initially be set-up at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights facility, before both machines are moved to the Molecular Horizons Building when it opens in 2019.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health Professor Alison Jones said ‘’this rare technology is in demand by researchers not only in NSW but all over the world’’.

Prof Jones added the installation of the microscope marked a milestone in the realisation of the university’s Molecular Horizons vision.

‘’There is a very major problem we are facing across the world to what’s called anti biotic resistance, where the bugs are outsmarting us a bit at the moment,’’ she said.

‘’Using this sort of technology, we should be able to design new anti biotics to outsmart the bugs again so we can stay ahead of that curve.

‘’If we do nothing we are going to get to a situation fairly soon where you will go to the doctors...with an infection, and we won’t have an anti-biotic that can treat that so we can’t let that happen.

‘’The Talos Arctica just allows us to look at the basic mechanisms of disease and the opportunity to then look at ways of overcoming anti microbial resistance, looking at cures for things like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.’’