On August 4–8, the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis hosted the Microscopy & Microanalysis 2013 (M&M13) meeting, where many vendors unveiled new tools. This article explores several of the products rolled out by some of the meeting’s sponsors, including FEI, JEOL and Leica Microsystems. In particular, the products described here deliver new ways to work with electron microscopy.
Many biological research projects require instruments that work synergistically. As an example of such a pair of products, Leica Microsystems demonstrated the Leica EM HPM100 High-Pressure Freezer and the Leica EM ACE600 Coater.
The Leica EM HPM100 provides cryofixation. In describing its top features, Ann Korsen, director of U.S. nanotechnology sales and marketing at Leica Microsystems, says, “Light stimulation can control the activity of specific neurons in living tissue. The Leica EM HPM100 with light stimulation can capture and preserve these cellular responses to light stimulation within milliseconds of the triggering signal for study by electron microscopy.” It can also cryopreserve samples up to 5 millimeters in diameter.
Then, the Leica EM ACE600, says Korsen, “allows biological samples that have been high-pressure or plunge frozen to be prepared for examination by electron microscopy, while always maintained safely in the frozen vitreous state.” This instrument is also fully programmable, which provides reproducible sample preparation. Korsen adds that it includes a “unique airlock system with sample transfer shuttle for frozen or air-sensitive samples.”
Tuning the transmission
For transmission electron microscopy (TEM), a variety of new platforms rolled out at the meeting. For example, FEI presented its Talos TEM. Marc Storms, product marketing manager life sciences at FEI, says, “The Talos is a class-leading, innovative and versatile new TEM platform for 3D imaging of cells and proteins. It allows for working at room-temperature and cryogenic specimen conditions.” The instrument’s versatility also blends with what Storms calls “a multi-user, multi-application device that makes microscopy accessible to a new and broader community.” For instance, the Talos runs with specially designed applications software that automatically acquires images that can be processed into three-dimensional presentations of cells and proteins. It can also be used for applications near the interface of life sciences and materials research, such as exploring the composition of materials with its quantitative energy dispersive x-ray (EDX) analysis.
FEI worked hard to make the Talos an extremely easy-to-use microscope. For instance, the system includes a touch-screen interface. At the other end of functionality, a user can even operate the Talos from a distant location. “It’s not like a microscope that you traditionally sit behind and dim the lights,” Storms says. “You can work remotely, and—thanks to its system enclosure and Flucam—the scope can be put in daylight conditions and is less sensitive to environmental factors.” Storm adds, “The Talos ensures that you will be able to perform today’s experiments and address new research problems in the future.”
In addition, JEOL was 100-percent booked for demonstrations of its new JEM-1400 Plus TEM, which is a 120-kilovolt platform for cryo-electron tomography and montaging.
Scanning the scene
In addition to new TEMs, some companies brought out new scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) at M&M13. JEOL introduced its JSM-iT300. “This is the next logical step in a product line on its 8th or 9th generation,” says Vern Robertson, SEM technical sales manager at JEOL. “Previous generations of this instrument have been the most widely used SEM in the world for decades.” Part of that wide use comes from the large sample sizes that the JSM-iT300 can handle in an automated fashion.
This new model includes extended pressure. “That’s the requirement for biologists who want to slow down the degradation of a sample under vacuum,” Robertson explains. “The magic number is 4 torr, and we’ve exceeded that, so we can look at wet biologicals.” In redesigning this SEM, JEOL also advanced the interface. “It was developed from the ground up like a smart-phone or tablet-type interface,” Robertson says. “It’s not just a touch screen, which any Windows 7 PC can be, but a multi-touch screen. You can use two fingers to pinch and pull the image.” Users do not need to take advantage of that feature, if they prefer to stay old-school. The JSM-iT300 can also be operated with knobs, mouse, keyboard or joystick, all in a standard configuration. “That still gives you the complete functionality,” Robertson says.
For any biologist working with fragile samples, this could be the scope to use. “This works with samples that won’t take a high vacuum and/or high voltage,” says Robertson. “If they want to do true cryo transfer, it supports that too.”
These new products from M&M13 make EM easier from sample preparation through analysis.