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Electron-optical scope allows biologists to see more

28 Aug 2013

Novel microscopy design will boost brain research at Poland's Nencki Institute.

A special combination of devices for light and electron microscopy has been installed in the Neurobiology Centre of the Nencki Institute, Warsaw, Poland.

This integrated system, constructed in cooperation with the team of Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, will be applied by researchers to investigate the structure and capabilities of the human brain.

Three-dimensional mapping of the internal structure of nervous cells and microscopic brain observation in living organisms are just two of the capabilities offered by the Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function, which recently opened in the Nencki’s Neurobiology Centre.

The new lab, established as part of the Centre for Preclinical Research and Technology (CePT), is a core research facility and will complete assignments for Nencki scientists and outside research groups as well as attempt to further the development of microscopic imaging.

Dr Tytus Bernaś, the lab’s director, commented, “We have successfully combined many microscopic techniques in one laboratory, starting with those based on the analysis of practically all parameters of visible light through to electron beam imaging. We hope that such an approach will help us obtain more comprehensive images of cell and tissue physiology and more precise images of their structure. We will also collect information about what is going on in a live nervous tissue.”

Research carried out in the Laboratory of Imaging Tissue Structure and Function is conducted using confocal and two-photon excitation microscopy, time resolved imaging, super resolution and correlation microscopy. Especially interesting is the fluorescence confocal microscope, which operates in tandem with the electron microscope.

Electronic and optical

The new set-up combines the high resolution characteristic of electron imaging with the high volume of biological information enabled by visible light images. The integrated scope also enables automatic imaging of a 3D structure of tissue and cell preparation. Bernaś comments, “the resolution of these devices is so great that it is possible to observe not only the whole cells but also the internal structure of their parts, such as cell nuclei or axons.”

“In the upcoming months we will have completed building our own super resolution microscope, using adaptive optics to model wave-front of light. This device will use the sample itself, which usually hinders microscopic imaging, as an additional optical element. So we expect to achieve higher resolution than that allowed by conventional microscope optics.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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