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BioCryoResearch highlightBioCryo cover image Integrative Biology Zinc sparks induce physiochemical changes in the egg zona pellucida that prevent polyspermyBioCryo facility contributes to book chapterBioCryo Cover Image Developmental Cell


Cryo EM of cells on different days in culture demonstrated that the freshly purified Ter119 negative cells present intact nuclear envelope, and strikingly, mouse fetal liver erythroblast forms a gradually enlarged nuclear opening. Image by Baobing Zhao, Postdoctoral Fellow (NU Pathology Department, Peng group), taken with the Cryo SEM S-4800.

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Research highlight

A cooperation with the Diekwisch lab at the Center for Craniofacial Research and Diagnosis at Texas A&M University College of Dentistry and Dr. Reiner Bleher of the BioCryo Facility resulted in a publication in ACS Nano.

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BioCryo cover image Integrative Biology

Left: Colorized SEM image of a chemically fixed and critical point dried mouse MII egg. Right: Colorized SEM image of a chemically fixed and critical point dried Aspergillus sp. (fungus) sample. The image was taken in NUANCE’s BioCryo Facility with the Hitachi S-4800-II. The image was recorded in NUANCE’s BioCryo Facility with the Hitachi S-4800-II.

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Zinc sparks induce physiochemical changes in the egg zona pellucida that prevent polyspermy

EPIC Biocryo facility manager Reiner Bleher and Biocryo specialist Eric W. Roth recently co-authored a paper published in the journal Integrative Biology. Using EPIC's SEMs and TEMs, the research team led by Northwestern scientists Theresa Woodruff and Thomas O’Halloran was able to show the previously unknown role of zinc in hardening the tissue surrounding a fertilized egg cell.

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BioCryo facility contributes to book chapter

In cooperation with NU faculty Derk Joester, Charlene Wilke and Reiner Bleher of the BioCryo Facility were contributing to and coauthoring a book chapter “Culture of and experiments with sea urchin embryo primary mesenchyme cells.”

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BioCryo Cover Image Developmental Cell

A Cryo SEM image of a Ter119 negative mouse fetal liver erythroblast forming a gradually enlarged nuclear opening. The image was recorded with the cryo SEM S-4800 of the BioCryo Facility. BioCryo facility manager Reiner Bleher and BioCryo Electron Microscopy Specialist Eric W. Roth co-authored this publication.



The integrated BioCryo Facility provides a comprehensive source for characterization of biological, soft matter, and hybrid samples with TEM (Transmission Electron Microscopy), SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy), and STEM (Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy) at cryogenic or at ambient temperature. We provide expertise and access to equipment for cryofixation and processing of frozen hydrated samples by high-pressure freezing, plunge freezing, cryo fracturing, cryo ultramicrotomy, freeze substitution, and turbo freeze-drying. Conventional samples can be processed at ambient temperature with chemical fixation, dehydration, and resin embedding, or critical point drying.

The BioCryo Facility also offers analytical STEM with EDS (Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy) and EELS (Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy), serial sectioning for 3D reconstruction, and immunolabeling, as well as image processing. This repertoire of capabilities is continually extended by adding innovative instrumentation and new techniques to BioCryo workflows.

In addition to offering training on instruments and sample preparation techniques, BioCryo staff mentors new users, advises on experimental design, and collaborates with researchers in experiments with challenging and unconventional samples. Similar to other NUANCE facilities (EPIC, Keck-II, SPID), the BioCryo Facility participates in numerous educational and outreach events, e.g. workshops, seminars, demos, and facility tours.  

Operations of the integrated BioCryo Facility are centered in Hogan Hall 5-150, while the facility also has lab space and instrumentation in Cook Hall and Silverman Hall. BioCryo instruments are listed in NUCore under the NU Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE). 


The primary objective of our mission is to enhance the education, collaboration, research and outreach related to all aspects of electron probe instrumentation, techniques and applications.  BioCryo is a shared user facility that supports a broad range of nanoscale science and technology projects, specializing in nanoscale analysis and characterization.

BioCryo is a multi-user, multi-departmental facility offering continually updated state-of-the-art equipment to qualified researchers from any field and institution.  BioCryo has a strong tradition of facilitating interdisciplinary research, and regular training sessions and short courses are offered by accomplished microscopists who manage the BioCryo facility, directed by Dr. Reiner Bleher and Professor Vinayak P. Dravid.

Research and Societal Outreach

Local teachers, museums and members of the community are encouraged to join the NUANCE family through open house visits, demonstrations and presentations on how nanotechnology affects our daily lives. To schedule a tour for your group, please contact us.


The NUANCE Bio-Cryo facility is located at 2205 Campus Drive; O.T. Hogan Biological Sciences Building, Suite 5-150.

For more information about the BioCryo Facility, please contact:

Reiner Bleher, Ph.D.
BioCryo Facility Manager
NUANCE | Northwestern University
Phone: (847) 467-3540
Office: Hogan Hall 5-156