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Dr. Reiner BleherDr. Reiner Bleher, Assistant Research Professor

What inspired your interest to work in this field?

When I encountered electron microscopy during research for my PhD thesis in Cell Biology, I was fascinated from the start by the high spatial resolution that can be obtained by using electrons for imaging, when compared to photons or X-rays. Being able to study cellular components in their ultrastructural context is a prerequisite for gaining deeper knowledge and understanding of biological processes. It was amazing for me to learn how versatile electron microscopy and microanalysis is as a method that delivers results and data to numerous areas of research. Furthermore, the ongoing improvements and new developments in instrumentation and techniques keep my interest in electron microscopy and microanalysis at the highest level.  

What is the most interesting project or achievement that you’ve been involved in at NUANCE?

Being a part of NUANCE as Manager of the BioCryo Facility, is an ongoing endeavor full of interesting challenges with great opportunities and experiences every day. From the scientific point, I want to mention using our custom-made Dual-EDS HD2300 STEM for the detection of transition metal accumulations in biological samples, in this case of zinc in mammalian eggs. With this instrument, we could directly detect and analyze the accumulation of zinc in peripheral vesicles of eggs in the MII stage, and thus enforce paradigm-shifting knowledge about the role of zinc ions in reproductive mammalian cells (1).

What are the everyday practical applications of your research/work? How does what you’re doing make a difference to non-scientists?

We are involved in studies in a variety of research areas with biological and soft matter samples, ranging from the life sciences to materials science to nanotechnology and beyond. Our contributions to these projects allow researchers to explore the structure and function of live processes and of matter and to develop new materials. This leads to the development of new or improved products for almost every aspect of our daily lives. Besides our work with bacteria, cells and tissues, we also contribute to studies on pharmaceuticals, nanoconstructs for drug delivery, quantum dots, catalysts, nanoparticles, hydrogels, polymers, biofilms, cat litter, packaging materials for food, and chewing gum, to name a few.    

What excites you most about the future of nanotechnology?

Hardly any area exists in science, in research and in our daily living that is not affected by nanotechnology. This thriving field enables us to develop new solutions for curing and preventing diseases, for production and storage of energy, and for removal and reduction of environmental pollution. This potential, in addition to numerous other possibilities, makes nanotechnology one of the keys to solve a number of the most pressing issues of humankind and of life in general on this planet.  

(1) Que, Emily L., Reiner Bleher, Francesca E. Duncan, Betty Y. Kong, Sophie C. Gleber, Stefan Vogt, Si Chen et al. "Quantitative mapping of zinc fluxes in the mammalian egg reveals the origin of fertilization-induced zinc sparks." Nature chemistry 7, no. 2 (2015): 130.