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Keck Center Hosts Microscopy Symposium, Workshop

March 8, 2011 — The University of Virginia's W.M. Keck Center for Cellular Imaging will sponsor and host an international symposium March 10 on fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET, microscopy, in honor of the late German physical chemist Theodor Förster, who innovated this specialized field of microscopy and published a groundbreaking paper on the subject 65 years ago.

FRET is used to image the molecular dynamics in biophysics and biochemistry experiments for an array of basic and applied scientific studies. The evolving technique has facilitated a greater understanding of how cells function, which can aid in drug discovery.

Researchers from the United States, Europe, India, England, Australia, Taiwan and Uruguay will participate in the symposium, with presentations by leading researchers in the field, and many also are participating in a five-day FRET workshop that began Tuesday.

The workshop is an intensive lecture/laboratory series for participants to develop theoretical and hands-on expertise with various FRET microscopy techniques. They are learning on state-of-the-art microscopy equipment operated and, in some cases, developed at the Keck Center by U.Va. researchers from the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The organizing committee for the seminar and workshop is made up of researchers from several institutions, and is chaired by Ammasi Periasamy, director of the Keck Center and a U.Va. professor of biology and biomedical engineering.

The W.M. Keck Center for Cellular Imaging was created in 1995 with seed money from U.Va.'s Board of Visitors and grants from the National Science Foundation. Significant additional funding from the W.M. Keck Foundation established the center as a leader in the innovation of new microscopes and techniques for real-time, high-resolution imaging of molecular changes in cells.

Protein molecule interactions within cells instruct, or "signal" cells to divide, die or convert into other types of cells. Visualizing the activity of protein molecules is key to the development of pharmaceuticals that may inhibit or block the progress of many diseases.

Research using these instruments and techniques is helping to better understand and treat human diseases and injuries such as the metastases of cancers, the origins of birth defects and spinal cord trauma.

— By Fariss Samarrai

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