Biophysicists have created a high-throughput super-resolution microscope to examine mammalian cells’ nanoscale dynamics and structures. This microscope reveals the twists and turns of an organelle crucial to cell division in unparalleled detail.
Centrioles are a thousand times smaller than a human strand and about one hundred times smaller than a mammalian cell. Since the techniques are typically too sluggish for structural studies, it was necessary to advance super-resolution microscope technology that uses light to probe specimens to observe them inside living cells. By distributing light more evenly across the field of view, Dora Mahecic, a Ph.D. student in the LEB, improved the illumination design to increase the size of images their microscope could record.
Unlike the typical optical microscope in an introductory biology class, the microscope is built on a super-resolution fluorescence microscope. The complicated system of precisely positioned mirrors and optics that directs and shapes laser light into the specimen is intricate. The biophysicists coupled this arrangement with sophisticated sample preparation, which physically magnifies the sample and uses fluorophores to cause proteins, the basis of life, to emit more light.
Numerous other cellular structures, like mitochondria, and other multi-molecular devices, like viruses, could be studied using this new high-resolution microscope technology.