A new way of visualizing cells

December 13, 2020 • 2:30 pm

This is a lovely video showing a new way of visualizing cells as they are living and operating. The “microscope” that does this is extremely large and complex. I don’t know much about it, and don’t fully understand the principles, but this video probably tells you all you need to know. The images are stunning, and I love the enthusiasm of the researchers.

21 thoughts on “A new way of visualizing cells

    1. Hmmm, a Swiss (Army) Knife of microscopy? Well, maybe. But with it also being an optical bench occupying on the order of 15 cu.m of lab volume, and probably needing to be in a basement (like all the best optical benches) to minimise the effects of vibration …
      Even disregarding the cost of such a machine, it’s only going to be accessible within large laboratories for the reasonable future. Having had conversations with more than a few clients about “can you do thin-section microscopy on-site (and on-sight)?” and “can you do clay analysis on-site?”, the answer is normally “what is my budget, in dollars, bed space and deck space?” Sheer optical sophistication isn’t necessarily the answer.
      One of the particular points of the Swiss Army knife is that every soldier in the Swiss army could be issued with one, and be expected to carry it at all times.
      Fancy tool though. Time-domain FISH on a volumetric scan. They’re going to need some serious computer grunt to process that data, as well as use it productively. 3d projection for VR too, I wouldn’t doubt.

      1. Yes, I get your point – to summarize the constraints, big budget and big data processing.

        While a technological constraint has been the stuff of awaiting the next invention, but the constraint of budget has always been a disturbing dilemma – “available but not accessible” – the stuff of awaiting the next kind donation ! This reminds me of the historical significant event – publishing Newton’s Principia, only after being funded by a rich man. Economics could find better solutions.

  1. This is fabulous. For those of us who are “science-idiots”, but curious!, it’s hard to visualize what goes on within bodies and cells.

    I became interested in biology because I had cancer about 10 years ago but didn’t know what cancer was, or what little I knew wasn’t doing it for me. Took a couple of years, by then I was cancer free, for me to understand, meaning understanding enough to put it in my own words, that cancer is evolution going awry in a body….and that a tumor is a niche undergoing intense natural selection.

    And while I was doing the reading, it was difficult to visualize the kinds of things going on inside cells. BTW, the other thing that really captivated me was how scientists go about setting up experiments that yield predictive models. And especially the instruments needed to actually do so.

    1. No? It reminded me of the revelation of a peculiar Silurian fossil by serial sectioning a few years ago – which showed multiple “kite-shaped” bodies hanging from the fossils abdomen, originally interpreted as feeding oviviviparous juveniles, but later re-interpreted as parasites.
      Well, that was several years ago, so perfectly understandable if you didn’t see it. But the imagery looks quite similar to me. The serial sectioning technique is quite comparable to their matrix-imaging procedure, but at a rather different data rate.

  2. Way cool. Nature, as illiumed by science, is transcendent. Why anyone should need iron-age superstition escapes me.

  3. That was interesting – I didn’t know that MOSAIC had so many functional methods (“modalities”). I believe I saw it recently used in a work that looked at how white blood cells tunnel through extracellular matrixes. A new world.

    Some nitpicks would be that whole tissue or cell imaging was referred to as ‘holistic’ and that computer graphics sequences weren’t declared.

    1. The serial-sectioned Silurian weird arthropod I mentioned above was part of a (small) revolution in the rules of taxonomy, since the process of imaging the holotype was, of necessity, completely destructive of the holotype. The digital data volume is the holotype now.
      These days, before getting out the grindstone they’d have to give serious consideration to “can we adequately examine this specimen by micro-CT, including a year-long queue for access to the machinery?”
      There’s also the question of the volumetric precision of such methods as this. Even with a voxel (volume-element) of a micron on a side (so 10^-18 cu.m/voxel), the accuracy of 2d electron microscopy still has several orders of magnitude in hand over this sort of technique.
      Horses for courses.

      1. You make good points – I hadn’t considered if the instrument was a good tool for fossils. My brain seems to think holidays is permission to take a holiday.

        I remembered that arthropod, but not that it was a Silurian copepod with pentastomid parasites [ https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(15)00486-8?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982215004868%3Fshowall%3Dtrue ]. Time flies.

        Serial grinding, at 20 mm intervals, of specimens preserved in carbonate nodules was followed by digital reconstruction of the morphology [10, 11] to produce virtual fossils. Some material of Nymphatelina gravida was lost to saw cuts in processing.

  4. Very cool. I sent a link to my kids. One in Med School, another in Vet School. They should find it interesting as well.

  5. Tantalizing! I wish that was just a trailer for a feature length 3-D IMAX film. I know it’s intended for research, but I’d love to see what a good film maker could do with the MOSIAC equipment. Maybe inspire a whole new generation of biologists?

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