It’s an unfortunate irony that to fully understand living things, it’s often necessary to kill them. Cells are routinely sliced up, pumped full of chemicals and frozen to allow for modern imaging techniques to probe their inner secrets. While giving unprecedented insight, the result of this punishing treatment is to destroy delicate structures within the cell and shroud the many dynamic interactions that make up a living thing. Finding ways to minimise this impact and use a sample that is as close to being alive as possible is essential. A new method using x-rays, which gives stunning 3D views of cells' machinery, such as our natural power stations, called mitochondria (in green), takes a step towards this. The cells, although still dead, can remain close to their natural state under the microscope, raising the possibility of adapting the technique for non-invasive medical imaging.
Written by Jan Piotrowski
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.