October 17, 2014

For years, the prettiest cells to image were flat cells in a dish. Thanks to the tireless work of many, beautiful high-resolution images can now come from tissue within a living organism. Today’s image is from a paper showing improved techniques for imaging fine cellular processes within large volumes, from the lab of recent Nobel prize winner, Eric Betzig. 

A material’s refractive index refers to how light travels through it; the simplest example being how light bends when passed through water. The refractive index heterogeneities stemming from the many cell types, morphologies, and subdomains within a living organism are a challenge to microscopists. As described in a paper from earlier this year, Wang and colleagues improved on previous techniques for imaging within large volumes. Wang and colleagues use adaptive optics (AO), which corrects for the microscope’s aberrations that limit image resolution, in a mode fast enough to correct for the various aberrations within a large sample, without inducing photodamage or photobleaching. The image above shows a 3D rendering from deep within a living zebrafish brain, with oligodendrocytes (magenta) and neuronal nuclei (green) visible.

Wang, K., Milkie, D., Saxena, A., Engerer, P., Misgeld, T., Bronner, M., Mumm, J., & Betzig, E. (2014). Rapid adaptive optical recovery of optimal resolution over large volumes Nature Methods, 11 (6), 625-628 DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2925
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2014

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