21st April (UPI) – Scientists have adapted an optics technique used by astronomers to present biological processes at the cellular and subcellular levels with unprecedented attention to detail.
Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston The Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School worked together to build a next-generation microscope with "Guide Star" technology.
"For the first time, we see life at all levels in whole, living organisms," Tom Kirchhausen, a professor of cell biology and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Boston Children's Hospital, said in one Press Release
The new microscope can be used to study almost any biological process or system in any type of living organism. Scientists can use the microscope to render 3D images of a series of biological phenomena in real time.
The technology was originally developed to help large telescopes observe distant galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The guide star refers to an artificial light source, a laser that helps the adaptive optical system to correct atmospheric distortions.
Scientists have successfully adapted the technology to a lattice light microscope at much smaller scales. Hybrid technology allows scientists to penetrate deeper into tissues and cells by scanning a lesser layer of diffused light through biological samples.
As part of the first tests, scientists used the microscope to survey the cells of a zebrafish. For the first time, scientists observed an immune cell that floated through the zebrafish's ear, shoveling up sugar particles on the way.
Previously it was necessary to use high power lasers for such high resolution images – but strong rays can damage biological specimens. The new technology enables scientists to study biological systems in vitro. Scientists were also able to observe how human cancer cells migrate through the bloodstream of a zebrafish model.
Scientists say that studying cells in natural biological systems, within real tissue and real organisms, is essential to understanding how cells and cellular processes work and develop
"This leads to nagging doubts that we do not see cells in their original state, happy in the organism in which they developed, "said lead researcher Eric Betzig. "It's often said that seeing means believing, but when it comes to cell biology, I think the more appropriate question is, when can we believe what we see?"
Betzig and his colleagues described their technological breakthrough in a new published this week in the journal Science.