Biologists are always looking for ways to push the limits of what our microscopes are capable of doing. These Microscopy Olympians (which should be a real thing, seriously) understand the physics and biology behind imaging cells in order to build, tweak, and test fancy-shmancy new technologies. And, just like the real Olympics, I watch from my couch with a bag of pretzels in front of me.
To accurately capture high resolution images of cells, biologists are always improving ways to capture three dimensional structures over time in a living cell. Combining nanoscale resolution with live imaging has proven a challenge, recently helped by a paper that describes the tweaks made to earlier microscopy setups. Paszek and colleagues presented their technique called scanning angle interference microscopy, in which dynamic cellular events and structures are imaged with nanoscale resolution in three dimensions. In the image above, microtubules imaged using this technique show their location in three dimensions. The “height” along each microtubule is color-coded (in nm) to show that microtubules bend down towards the cell cortex.
Paszek MJ, Dufort CC, Rubashkin MG, Davidson MW, Thorn KS, Liphardt JT, & Weaver VM (2012). Scanning angle interference microscopy reveals cell dynamics at the nanoscale. Nature methods, 9 (8), 825-7 PMID: 22751201