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W.M. Keck Foundation grant funds reproductive science research
Date:7/29/2008

namely, the relationship of physiologically relevant metals to the events surrounding fertilization," said Woodruff. "The involvement of inorganic molecules in this process has not been examined, and the development of imaging technologies that are predicted to bring a new level of sensitivity and detection capability to this critical time in biology is exciting."

The team will use the Keck Foundation grant to purchase a custom-built scanning transmission electron microscope with multiple detectors for quantitative images of the inorganic elements in the mouse germ cells. No existing microscope can do this. Furthermore, the movement and flux of these ions will be tracked in live cells using confocal microscopy. New fluorescent "nanosensors" will be developed specifically for these studies.

The work lies at the interface of reproductive science, chemistry, biophysics and imaging technology. Also on the research team are Vinayak P. Dravid, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern and director of the University's NUANCE Center (Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center), and Jonathan Silverstein, M.D., associate professor of surgery and radiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center and associate director of the university's Computation Institute.

Dravid's expertise lies in advanced microscopy and analytical techniques; he will coordinate construction of the electron microscope and develop methods to use the equipment. Silverstein specializes in the application of computers and other technology to the analysis of vast biomedical databases; he will develop software to interpret the data collected using the microscope and will create 3-D images of the eggs showing amounts and distribution of the inorganic molecules.

The origin of the idea, that zinc in particular may play an important role in these signaling pathways, came from the research of graduate student Alison Kim, who is working w
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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