A team of scientists and students at the University of Sheffield designed and built a dedicated microscope and shared assembly instructions that will help make this equipment available to many laboratories around the world. The smfBox microscope is capable of measuring individual molecules. This allows scientists to study one molecule at a time, rather than generating an average result over bulk samples. Details of the new development are reported by Nature Communications.
Nowadays, such technologies using the single-molecular method are available only in a few specialized laboratories around the world due to the high cost of microscopes.
Today, the developers have posted all the assembly instructions and software required to operate the microscope online. The goal is to make the “single molecule method” available to laboratories around the world.
The team of scientists spent a relatively modest £ 40,000 (over 4 million rubles) to create a kit, which usually costs around £ 400,000 (40.6 million rubles).
The microscope is designed with little preparation before use, and the lasers are shielded so that it can be used under normal lighting conditions.
We wanted to democratize the measurement of disposable molecules in order to make this method available to laboratories around the world. Now every lab has a plan and software to build the necessary equipment for themselves without spending too much money.
Dr. Tim Craggs, Project Lead Scientist from the University of Sheffield
Many medical diagnostics are moving towards hypersensitivity, and there is nothing more sensitive than detecting individual molecules, the scientists explain. In fact, many of the new COVID-19 tests that are currently being developed are working at this level. The new tool is a good starting point for further development towards new medical diagnostics.
The Craggs Lab at the University of Sheffield has already used smfBox in their research to study fundamental biological processes such as detecting DNA damage. A deeper understanding of this area will lead to more effective treatments for diseases such as cancer.