Microscopy news – January 2014

Combining two microscopic techniques

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT have combined two techniques, digital holographic microscopy and optical tweezers, in order to reduce the number of measurements needed to determine how individual cells react to new drug ingredients. This reduces the time required to perform the measurements from 50%-80%. A fluorescence microscope is used to produce a three-dimensional image of a cell, which can be viewed on a computer. Optical tweezers are used to move and place individual cells into microscopic wells with the help of a laser. The response of the cells to different chemical can then be observed in these wells.
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Correlative Light Electron Microscopy

In order to study the movement of certain proteins inside a cell, both light and electron microscopy is needed to observe the same specimen. Light microscopy allows for the rapid observation of live and fixed cells, while electron microscopy provides a higher resolution. In Correlative Light Electron Microscopy the cells are first observed using a fluorescence microscope and are then rapidly fixed and prepared for subsequent electron microscopic observation. The cells are first prepared using markers. These bind specifically against certain intracellular structures (using antibodies) to make them visible. The problem is, that the fluorescent markers which are needed for light microscopy cannot be seen under the electron microscope. Electron microscopy, in turn, uses gold particles to label certain intracellular structures. These cannot be seen with the light microscope, however. The challenge was to find a labeling method to make the structures visible for both microscopic techniques. Ideally one probe contains both a fluorescent marker and a gold particle, but the article also addresses other methods.
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Facebook page: History of Microscopy

A new facebook page dedicated to the history of microscopy, has been founded. The page is dedicated to “pre-1900 microscopes, slides and their makers”. Please support the Facebook page by “liking” it! The Facebook page belongs to the website microscopist.net, which documents a large collection of historic microscope slide makers.
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Nikon Small World Competition

Vim van Egmont won this year’s Nikon Small World photomicrography competition with a picture of the colonial marine diatom, Chaetoceros debilis.
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Olympus BioScapes Competition

Igor Siwanowicz won the 2013 micrography competition with a picture showing Utricularia gibba, with single-cell organisms inside.
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Obtaining depth information

Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) Vienna, Austria, developed a method to quickly obtain three-dimensional information of a specimen sample. The researchers used fluorescent markers to label the cells and were able to convert the distance of the marker to the slide to a color change of the emitted light. It is therefore not necessary anymore to scan the different depths of the sample and only one measurement is necessary to obtain full three-dimensional information of the fluorescent markers in the specimen. The depth of the marker in the cell could be represented by the color given off by the fluorescing marker. The researchers achieved this by placing the labelled specimen on a specially prepared quartz microscope slide, which was covered with a thin silver film and a dielectric layer.
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Observing batteries in action

Researchers have developed a method to microscopically observe the electrodes of a battery during operation. The researchers could see that the electrodes change their thickness as they give off and accept positively charged ions from the surrounding electrolyte. Up to this point, the observations were based on transmission electron microscopy in dry conditions. The researchers now developed a method to observe the electrodes submerged in a liquid electrolyte, in wet conditions.
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Increasing the resolution

Researchers from Switzerland could significantly increase the resolution of conventional light microscopes using oil or water immersion objectives. They achieved this by simply placing microspheres made of barium titanate glass on top of the sample. This way they could observe structures which were significantly below the resolution limit of the microscope.
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Scientists of the Wyss Institute (Harvard Univeristy) developed a method to supass the 0.2 micrometer resolution limit of conventional microscopes. They designed DNA probes with a fluorescent marker which are able to selectively bind against cell-internal structures. Once bound, they create a blinking effect, which can be picked up by the microscope. This method is able to overcome the diffraction limit of microscopes and is therefore able to visualize extremely small structures.
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Low-cost webcam microscope

Researchers of the University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet, in Sweden constructed low-cost micoscopes from inexpensive webcams. The optics of these devices were removed and the specimen was placed directly on the image sensor. They were able to identify several pathogenic parasites this way.
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Even more low-cost DIY webcam microscope

As a weekend project, why not make your own microscope? This post gives a step-by step instruction on how to modify a webcam to be able to view microscopic objects.
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Microscope in space

Already in 2011, NASA carried a light microscope to the International Space Station (ISS). Now the spinning-disk iMIC light microscopy platform was introduced. This system is able to perform 3D imaging in high resolution in microgravity. It is able to fit into a 44 cm diameter rocket and will allow the study of the space environment on cells.
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