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ESF On The Cutting Edge

New equipment upgrades work at the N.C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies

The N.C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies in the Department of Sustainable Construction Management and Engineering at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has received $350,000 in electron microscopy equipment from Pfizer (formerly Wyeth) Pharmaceuticals.

"We now have the technology to see and work with the basic stuff of life," said Robert P. Smith, assistant director of the center. "We can see proteins, we can see carbohydrates, we can see nanoparticles and their interaction inside a single living cell. You have to have the cutting-edge technology in order to do that."

Dr. Susan Anagnost, chair of the Department of Sustainable Construction Management and Engineering and director of the N.C. Brown Center, said, "The field of microscopy has advanced dramatically over the past 10 years and the equipment donated by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals keeps us up to date and will further advance our research programs in the materials and biological sciences at ESF and surrounding institutions."

The N.C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies is the central microscopy facility for ESF, Syracuse University, Upstate Medical University, other academic institutions and industry.

One recent project involved a team from Syracuse University and focused on using vitamin B to deliver insulin.

Smith, a former senior scientist at Wyeth Vaccines who solicited the grant, explained, "We hooked the vitamin B to a gold nanoparticle and then, using an electron microscope, we looked at a single cell and the presence of the gold nanoparticle confirmed that the delivery had been completed."

The donated equipment includes a Balzers Freeze Fracture unit with glow discharge, Leica EM CPC plunge freeze system, three liquid N2 tanks, Leica EM FC6 Cryo and resin ultramicrotome, Leica EM Grid Straining System, drying oven, light microscope, critical point drying system and six diamond knives. This equipment is used to prepare samples by freezing and/or drying and cutting to achieve extremely accurate results.