It's always been hard for researchers to look at living cells under a microscope — for many cells, the light required to see them is also toxic to them. But now, a new kind of microscopy which "uses focused sheets of light to crease 3-D movies of living cells," is making it possible for researchers to see what happens within living cells without worrying about killing them, says the 80beats blog's Patrick Morgan. The technique is called Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy — thin planes of light are shot at the side of the cell and illuminate the specific plane of the cell being studied, instead of "drowning" the entire cell in light from the top, Morgan says. The HHMI researchers who created the technique — and published their study recently in Nature Methods — say it allows them to see the complexity of living cells in three dimensions and creates sharper images than standard microscopy. "This new technique improves the level of detail by more than a factor of three compared with old techniques, but the researchers say they can do still better by combining the pulsing Bessel beam technique with higher-resolution microscopy," Morgan says. "From live-action films of mitosis to the workings of individual organelles, the future of cellular imaging is a wriggling mass of 3-D footage."
(No Longer) Blinded by the Light
Mar 09, 2011