Microscopic cell imaging jumps to 3D movies; unobtainium not required

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Looking at cells just got a whole lot more interesting than just looking at a flat, super magnified image. Two researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have figured out a way to capture holographic images of cells and turn them into interactive 3D movies.

Yann Cotte and Fatih Toy from EPFL in France created their 3D microscopy imaging system using low intensity lasers that are “cold” enough not to affect the cells, as well as a holographic camera. The lasers illuminate the cell, while the camera captures a minute-long exposure of the cell from every angle. Finally, the team uses a computer to compile all the images into a 3D movie.


The resulting movie allows scientists to observe a working cell in 3D space, which could be especially useful researching the effects of medicine as well as diseases.

"We can observe in real time the reaction of a cell that is subjected to any kind of stimulus," Yann explained in a news release. “This opens up all kinds of new opportunities, such as studying the effects of pharmaceutical substances at the scale of the individual cell.”

On top of that, researchers can virtually "slice" the 3D image of a cell to explore all its internal components—from the nucleus to the organelles. So far, researchers have already used the system to film a growing neuron.

Yann and Faith are currently working with the startup Lyncée SA to develop their 3D cell imaging system into something that can deliver the same observations without having to remove the cells otherwise known as “in vivo.”

[EPFL and Nature Photonics via Popular Science]

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