Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Inner Vision
17 April 2012

Inner Vision

Finding out what goes on within individual cells is no easy task. It can involve freezing an organ and cutting it into super-thin slices for scanning by electron microscopy. These scans are then combined to produce a 3D reconstruction. However, this slicing technique cannot easily be used for thick, complex cells. It tends to result in distorted images because slices get squashed during the cutting process. Scientists have developed a solution, which instead of electrons, uses a focused beam of gallium ions. Firing the ions at a shallow angle into the tissue and using a computer program to reconstruct the data, researchers can produce highly detailed images like the one above of a slime mold cell. At the top is the nuclear membrane with pores (coloured blue) that separates the nucleus from the cytoplasm and its various organelles.

Written by Andrew Purcell

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