The microcosm of the cell is very important, but it is tricky to understand it in detail. Studying living cells on the nanoscale helps us understand the causes of diseases, but traditional methods are fraught with the risk of destroying these cells themselves. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed a new technology that allows scientists to construct high-definition 3D images of the inside and outside of cells. Researchers hope that this will provide insights into how cells interact within themselves, thereby helping scientists find solutions to fight infection and disease.
Although there are many microscope imaging techniques available, they all have their pros and cons. For example, electron microscopy cannot be used with living cells because the intensity of the electron beam can damage the sample. Other methods, such as fluorescence microscopy, have problems in providing the correct image resolution.
In their research, EPFL researchers developed their own imaging technology. Their technology is based on the existing scanning probe microscope, which is invasive to cells. Therefore, researchers rely on the latest advances in nanopositioning, nanopore manufacturing, microelectronics, and control engineering to measure ion current without touching the sample.
Swiss researchers call this new method Scanning Ion Conductance Microscopy (SICM). The new technique studies specimens from a distance of 25-50 nm. Since it never touches the sample, it will not cause damage to the sample. The researchers combined the SICM method with random optical fluctuation imaging (SOFI). SOFI technology can look inside the cell and observe the molecules and processes happening there. These two technologies allow researchers to capture high-definition 3D images of the inside and outside of cells at the same time.
The research was published in two studies in the journals ACS Nano and Nature Communications.
The researchers said that this new method is very useful for studying infection biology, immunology and neurobiology. It can also be used in the field of energy science to help produce solar fuel.
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