A NORTH-EAST university has been awarded nearly £1m for a super -microscope to observe the molecular workings of living cells.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) announced that Durham University was one of a handful of universities to get Government funding for large items of equipment.

The award will pay for a Super-Resolution Microscope.

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SRMs allow scientists to see inside living cells beyond the resolution offered by conventional microscopes – equivalent to 10,000 times smaller than a human hair.

This will allow the Durham researchers to investigate the fundamental biology of living cells in greater detail.

Durham’s research will focus mainly on plants and crops, an area where the use of SRM imaging has been limited.

Professor Patrick Hussey, director of The Durham Centre for Bioimaging Technology (DCBT), said: "The SRM will be used by Durham scientists working on a range of cell systems including fungi, alga and bacteria as well as plants.

“It will also be used by scientists who make up the UK Plant Cell Biology Community where we will share both our expertise and facilities in order to optimise technologies for SRM. We will also work with scientists within the N8 partnership of research-intensive universities in the North of England."

He said the investment was “a testament to the quality of the cell biological research at Durham University."