Imaging technique captures 3D video of cells at work in unprecedented detail

Alex Fox in Nature:

ScreenHunter_3055 Apr. 20 20.44A microscope that combines two imaging techniques — including one used by astronomers — now allows researchers to capture 3D videos of living cells inside organisms.

The approach addresses long-standing problems with imaging cells in living tissue. Because of how light interacts with different shapes and materials, trying to get a picture of a cell alongside its neighbours is like looking through a bag of marbles, says Eric Betzig, a physicist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, who led the team that developed the device. To produce crisp images, conventional microscopes often isolate their subjects on a glass slide or bombard them with potentially harmful amounts of light.

But observing cells in isolation under glass is like going to the zoo to study lion behaviour, says Betzig. His team’s technique lets researchers observe cells in their natural habitat: the video above depicts an immune cell on the prowl in a zebrafish embryo’s inner ear. Betzig and his colleagues described their process1 on 19 April in Science.

The technique shows researchers what cellular structures can do without them having to speculate about it first, says biochemist Tom Kornberg of the University of California, San Francisco.

More here. [Thanks to Ali Minai.]