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Novel Microscope Collects Dynamic Images of Living Organisms


Image credit: Epithelial tissue during dorsal closure of a fruit fly embryo. Betzig Lab, HHMI

Professor Eric Betzig from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Ashburn, Virginia has been awarded with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry because of his achievement in developing the super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.

In addition, Eric Betzig and his team are making continuous efforts in development of a lattice light-shield microscope, which is capable of presenting high-resolution, 3D images of living cells and organisms. Science has published the paper offering detailed information about such microscope.

It is a complicated action of balance to image 3D movement of tiny structures in living cells. If the images are captured in high resolution, it would be difficult to do it rapidly, leading to a discontinuous series, because the strong beam of light which is applied for collecting the fluorescent markers is quite harsh and would be harmful to the cells, thus making the study of the structures harder.

The attempt of Betzel’s team was targeted on solution to this problem through altering the mode in which the sample was illuminated. In 2011, they developed the Bessel beam plan illumination microscope, which instead of using a single powerful beam, resorted to a sheet of light.

It would be quite easier to disperse the light across a plane than on the cells. It could make it possible for the images of high-resolution to be picked up rapidly. Although this approach was gentler, the shape of beam would make the sides of the sample appear lightly out of focus, which they have been trying hard to solve for a long time.

At present, it is believed that by combination of advantages of the Bessel beam and single beams of light in the traditional way, they have already solved the problems in regard to the resolution. Instead of using a single plane of light to illuminate the subject from the side, they applied seven parallel beams to create a much planar lattice pattern.

Although they saw some interference between the beams, they were able to arrange the beams to give off provide light wherever necessary so as allow those blurry edges to be sharpened. Such arrangement could be easily applied the cells, which is also vital to study these structures.

As Betzig said, it was shocking to know that by spreading the energy out across seven beams rather than one, the phototoxicity would decrease. From his previous experiences, it was more important to get the instantaneous power to be put on the cell than to have the total dose of light to be set on the cell.

By application of such technique, scientists were able to image proteins when they travelled in an out of cells, which would be helpful in tracing the original structure of cells and tissues as well as small organisms. By doing so, scientists would better understand the structure’s purpose. With the various kinds of applications, scientists were making efforts to find more in the future.

Apart from the one being used in Betzig’s lab, a second microscope was built and then donated to AdvancedImagingCenter of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Without any charge, anyone could use this microscope if he was interested in application of this technology on the condition he should submit necessary proposals.

For more information, you should go watch the complete collection of videos released by the lab’s Vimeo channel .

Source: hhmi

Journal reference: Chen, Bi-Chang, et al. “Lattice light-sheet microscopy: Imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution.” Science 346.6208 (2014): 1257998.