Preparation protocol for Ebola

Editorial

Rebecca Pool

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 14:45
Image: Improving electron microscopy specimen preparation for viruses such as Ebola. [CDC]
 
Examining the Ebola virus by electron microscopy is vital to discovering ways to combat this deadly scourge.
 
But preparing and handling specimens proves to be difficult in high-level biosafety laboratories.
 
Now US Army scientists have found a safer, faster way to handle and prepare hazardous virus specimens using patented technology from Microscopy Innovations, a biotechnology tools firm.
 
Researchers at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases handle the most dangerous pathogens, such as Ebola, in the highest biosafety level facilities, BSL-4, wearing gloves and biohazard suits.
 
Virus specimens are adhered onto TEM grids for processing and, later, imaging, and the fragile, filmed grids, just 3mm in diameter, must be handled with sharp forceps.
 
Wearing bulky, pressurized suits and the required double gloves, however, USAMRIID technicians found handling TEM grids slow and difficult. In fact, about 80 percent of the grids were damaged in the process.
 
“We were looking for a better way to prepare grids,” says Dr Mei Sun, USAMRIID senior electron microscopy scientist.
 
So, Sun approached Microscopy Innovations about using the company’s mPrep/g capsules to handle and process grids containing Ebola specimens.
 
By pre-loading empty grids into the processing capsules before entering the restricted BSL-4 area, technicians could eliminate the need for direct grid handling while suited up.
 
Dr Steven Goodman, Microscopy’s chief scientific officer, proposed a protocol that would allow safe, easy handling of the grids.
 
After testing the method USAMRIID began using it in the BSL-4 facility, where technicians reported that grid failure rates dropped to almost zero.
  
“Our ‘finger-scale’ handling of grids in mPrep capsules allowed technicians to leave the sharp forceps behind and accelerate their grid handling,” highlights Goodman.
 
Providing easier grid handling and improved reproducibility, the new mPrep method is also said to be ideal even for working with low-risk viruses.
 
The company claims, mPrep is a game changer for researchers handling dangerous pathogens in BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs.
 
Learn more here.
 
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