Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A new microscopic imaging technique allows details of the inner life of cells to be seen with super resolution

07 January 2019

Seeing Specifics

From an aeroplane window, cities below look like busy hives of indistinguishable activity. Microscopes give a comparable view of our cells, showing bustling molecular business but sometimes lacking the clarity to discern key details. Modern imaging techniques show strands of the cytoskeleton linking structures called organelles like roads between buildings, but limitations in resolution or speed cloud the view of intricate molecular behaviour. A new approach pictures behaviour over long periods of time, in multi-colour, fast enough to match microscopic life’s hectic pace. Using it, researchers are already revealing new behaviours, such as how vesicles of essential molecules (yellow) travel along the dynamically changing cytoskeleton (yellow) and endoplasmic reticulum (pink) – another important cell component. The cytoskeleton is crucial to life, and since defects in its structure and behaviour are linked to countless diseases, from the neurological to cardiovascular, getting a better look could be the first step towards new treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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