Meeting the diverse needs of the scientific and technological community by establishing, maintaining, operating, and expanding unique high-complexity open facilities, ensuring comprehensive coverage of scientific issues that are fundamental for the National System for Science, Technology, and Innovation.
What open facility users say about the CNPEM
Rejane’s research focuses on identifying the proteins present in the stomach of the mosquito that transmits malaria, Anopheles darlingi. Studies with mosquitos of a related species documented the presence of a protein in its stomach capable of blocking the parasite that causes malaria, Plasmodium vivax. According to Rejane, this protein could be used in the laboratory to develop insecticides and larvicides that could stop this parasite from developing inside its host; developing products to eliminate this mosquito parasite without harming humans or the environment is a major focus of the World Health Organization. Rejane de Castro Simões used mass spectrometry to identify and characterize peptides found in the stomachs of adult mosquitos fed with blood from volunteers infected with malaria. “I always wanted to develop something that could give back to the community. It’s as if I owed back what the community invested in me. It’s only fair. It’s because of their taxes that we are here.”
Facility: LNBio/Mass Spectrometry Laboratory
In nanoparticles, spatial confinement affects the electronic structure and their size permits geometric formations with variations, distortions, and symmetries that are not possible in macroscopic systems. This complexity is even greater in multimetallic systems, which allow different types of atomic arrangements and electronic structures. Quantifying the chemical structure of these nanoparticles is essential to understand new phenomena. “Using transmission and scanning electron microscopy combined with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy made it possible to investigate bimetallic nanoparticles individually, which in turn allowed us to answer the questions posed in our research,” said study supervisor Varlei Rodrigues. “We decided to use the CNPEM facilities because of their infrastructure, which has transmission electron microscopes with the technical characteristics required for measurements at the nano scale,” explains researcher Murilo Moreira.
Advisor: Varlei Rodrigues | Facility: LNNano/LMF, LME – Titan Themis and TEMFEG 2100F
Antonio Vargas de Oliveira Figueira is a professor in the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (CENA/USP). Antonio and his team investigated biochemical and physiological changes caused in tomatoes by the fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa, which causes witches’ broom disease in cocoa trees. They used the tomato as a genetic model because of its small size, allowing them to analyze the entire impact of infection on the productivity and physiology of affected plants. “The study demonstrated that infection by the fungus led to the formation of a metabolic drain in the affected region that drastically reduced fruit production and negatively impacted root formation, which could explain the large-scale impact of the disease on cocoa production in southern Bahia.”
Daniele Polotow traveled to Germany in search of equipment capable of conducting 3D tomography on miniscule components of her topic of research, spiders, before learning that the CNPEM has the same technology: CT scan or X-ray using the Microtomograph Skyscan 1272. Daniele works with the taxonomy of neotropical spiders in family Ctenidae, commonly known as wandering spiders. She is currently focusing on analyzing a peculiar evolutionary characteristic in adult males in various species: an s-shaped fourth leg. Her goal is to discover what conditions permit the perpetuation of this characteristic in these groups of spiders and what else it may represent. “Minute analyses of plant and animal species form the base of complex research.”
Facility: Nanostructure materials laboratory
Mónica Guadalupe López Ortega is a doctoral student at the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (CINVESTAV) in Mexico. Mónica explains that Mexico is attempting to diversify its energy grid and is considering the introduction of ethanol. Her project evaluates ethanol production from sugarcane within the specific context of Mexico. “By using a computer with special software, we can simulate a sugarcane processing plant and assess the resulting economic, social, and environmental impacts.” Mónica was in Brazil for approximately six months and learned about the CNPEM through scientific articles specific to this area. “Here I’m surrounded by specialists on the topic I’m working on. I can walk out of the office, take a few steps, and talk with someone who has vast experience on the topic.” Being a scientist is a learning process that never ends.
Facility: LNBR/Virtual sugarcane biorefinery
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness with multiple causes, but specific biochemical processes that cause this disease have not yet been discovered. The work of Michelle Carvalho, advised by Acioly Luiz Lacerda, attempts to identify molecules that could be useful in diagnosing, monitoring, and characterizing this psychiatric disorder. Researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) used nuclear magnetic resonance to analyze and compare important amino acids in the protein syntheses of individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls. Recognizing these molecules could help create a future in which a blood test helps doctors select the most appropriate treatment for a patient depending on the stage of the disease.
Advisor: Acioly Luiz Tavares Lacerda | Facility: LNBio/Nuclear magnetic resonance
Carolina Santa Isabel Nascimento is a doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Ecology and Natural Resources (PPGERN) at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar). One of the objectives of her research is to discover the habits and behavior of Brazilian megafauna by direct or indirect identification of remains of plants, bones, hair, or parasites. To do so, she studies micro-inclusions in fossilized animal feces (coprolites), using samples from different Brazilian archaeological and paleontological sites. She says that the classic techniques used to analyze this type of material are destructive and not recommended for work with rare samples like fossils; X-ray microtomography makes it possible to obtain detailed information without damaging the samples. During her studies, Carolina discovered the potential for using synchrotron light techniques in her area of research, and during a university visit to the CNPEM she got a closer look at the laboratory installations and their possibilities. “Often at a paleontological site we don’t find the skeleton of the animal, but we have evidence that it passed through that territory. Coprolites are one such type of evidence.”
Advisor: Marcelo Adorna Fernandes | Facility: LNLS/X-ray microtomography (IMX)
“We are attempting to reduce, or transform, iron oxide into metallic iron in order to ultimately obtain a nanoparticle with properties for use in specific biomedical applications, for example. There are various potential application types. One is magnetic hyperthermia, used in patients with cancer or other serious illnesses. You get a nanoparticle with these properties and direct it to the region affected by the disease, apply a magnetic field, and the region heats up and kills the tumor cells. Another biomedical application is magnetic separation. I can take a nanoparticle that responds to a magnetic field and functionalize its surface so that it attaches to a protein expressed on the cell surface, and later I can use a magnet, for example, to separate these cells.” “Our focus is more physical, on understanding these properties, especially magnetism. We are trying to understand and interpret the magnetic properties of these materials to better tailor them to specific applications,” explains Bianca’s advisor Flávio.
Advisor: Flávio Garcia | Facility: LNLS/Dispersive X-ray absorption spectroscopy line (DXAS)
“My goal is to synthesize nanomaterials for application as electrocatalysts in fuel cells in order to boost the efficiency of these devices in converting chemical energy into electrical energy. These devices could soon replace combustion engines in cars. To do so, I use the TEM-FEG transmission electron microscope at LNNano. Microscopic analyses generate data on the shape of the nanoparticles and how the different elements used in synthesis are distributed throughout these nanomaterials.”
“The CNPEM is very important in the research we are conducting here in Amazonas. The biodiversity in our region made it possible for us to isolate bacteria and fungi with biodegradation potential, particularly for petroleum and diesel, leading us to develop biotechnological projects based on exploring and understanding the metabolic pathways in these bacteria. The mass spectrometry facility at LNBio is essential for us to identify the proteins we isolate from the bacterial extracts. Thanks to the multi-user laboratory, we have the opportunity to enrich our data, more clearly understand the processes that take place in these bacteria, and expand the impact of our publications.”
“More than anything, being a scientist means being curious. As long as there are questions bubbling up in our minds, there will be science. If we had the answers to everything, we would not need science. Being a scientist also involves finding a world of possibilities with every advance in research. I tend to always think that nothing is defined: there are possibilities for everything. When we talk about soils this is irrefutable, since soils are complex systems where organisms, minerals, and chemical reactions are simultaneously interacting without interruption in the soil. And it is exactly this dynamic nature that makes it so enchanting in the eyes of a scientist.”