q&more
My watch list
my.chemie.de  
Login  

News

Motion pictures from living cells

Research team improves superresolution microscopy

Bielefeld University/ W. Hübner

Images of the new microscope: The computer screen and the microscope images (right) show a bone cancer cell with mitochondria (blue) and endoplasmic reticulum (pink).

24-Sep-2019: In order to observe cells at work, researchers have to bypass a physical law. One of the fastest techniques to overcome the resolution limit of classical light microscopy is high-resolution structured illumination microscopy. It makes visible details that are about a hundred nanometres in size. However, translating the data back into images has taken a long time so far. A research team from the University of Bielefeld, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena has now developed a technique to observe processes in the cell.

This graphics card normally helps computer gamers to have a great gaming experience. The researchers, however, use it to observe the smallest cell components in action — in real time and with a very high frame rate. "The image data can be reconstructed about twenty times faster than it would take on a PC," explains Rainer Heintzmann of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT), who laid the foundations for the process of structured illumination in high-resolution microscopy back in 1998. Together with him, the Bielefeld research team led by Prof. Thomas Huser further expanded the technology of Super-Resolved Structured Illumination Microscopy (SR-SIM).

In the fluorescence microscopic method SR-SIM, objects are irradiated with laser light using a special pattern. It excites special fluorescent molecules in the sample so that they emit light at a different wavelength. The microscopic image then shows this emitted light. It is first recorded in several individual images and then reconstructed as a high-resolution image on a computer. "The second step in particular has taken a lot of time so far," says Andreas Markwirth from the University of Bielefeld, the first author of the study. By using parallel computing methods on modern graphics cards for the new microscope, his team of researchers has now been able to significantly accelerate the image reconstruction process. A minimum delay of 250 milliseconds is almost imperceptible to the human eye. The raw data can also be generated more quickly with the newly researched microscope.

Structures that are invisible to conventional microscopes

"This makes it possible to measure samples quickly and adapt test conditions immediately during an experiment instead of evaluating them afterwards," says Rainer Heintzmann, describing the practical benefits of the new technology.

The scientists tested the method on biological cells and recorded the movements of mitochondria, the energy centres of the cells that are about one micrometer in size. "We were able to produce about 60 frames per second — a higher frame rate than those of motion pictures. The time between measurement and image is less than 250 milliseconds, which is why the technology allows real-time recordings," says Andreas Markwirth.

So far, superresolution images have often been combined with conventional methods: A conventional fast microscope is used to first find structures. These structures can then be examined in detail using a superresolution microscope. "However, some structures are so small that they cannot be found with conventional microscopes, for example special pores in liver cells. Our method is both high-resolution and fast, which enables biologists to investigate such structures," said Thomas Huser. Another application for the new microscope is the investigation of viral particles on their way through the cell. "This enables us to understand exactly what happens during infection processes," said Huser.

Superresolution microscopes have only been available for about 20 years. Ernst Abbe discovered in 1873 that the resolution of an optical system for visible light is limited to about 250 nanometres. In recent years, however, several optical methods have been developed in order to fall below Abbe's resolution limit. The Americans William E. Moerner and Eric Betzig, as well as the German Stefan Hell, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 for developing a superresolution in the range of about 20 to 30 nanometers.

Original publication:
Andreas Markwirth, Mario Lachetta, Viola Mönkemöller, Rainer Heintzmann, Wolfgang Hübner, Thomas Huser, Marcel Müller; "Video-rate multi-color structured illumination microscopy with simultaneous real-time reconstruction"; Nature Communications; September 2019.

Facts, background information, dossiers

  • structured illumina…
  • superresolution microscopy

More about Uni Bielefeld

  • News

    Starship Enterprise concept: Optical tractor beam traps bacteria

    Up to now, if scientists wanted to study blood cells, algae, or bacteria under the microscope, they had to mount these cells on a substrate such as a glass slide. Physicists at Bielefeld and Frankfurt Universities have developed a method that traps biological cells with a laser beam enablin ... more

    Hot electrons point the way to perfect light absorption

    Light-absorbing films can be found in many everyday applications such as solar cells or sensors. They are used to convert light into electrical current or heat. The films literally trap the light. Although such absorber films are applied widely, scientists still do not know which mechanism ... more

    Cooling with molecules

    An international team of scientists have become the first ever researchers to successfully reach temperatures below minus 272.15 degrees Celsius – only just above absolute zero – using magnetic molecules. The physicists and chemists are presenting their new investigation  in Nature Communic ... more

  • q&more articles

    The Third Dimension

    Proteins play a fundamental role in our day-to-day lives. Thanks to proteins we can speak, move about and think; they protect us from disease and repair damage to our bodies. Proteins are also becoming more popular as active pharmaceutical ingredients: in 2012, the market share of biopharma ... more

  • Authors

    Jens Sproß

    studied Chemistry at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena before receiving his doctorate from the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg. He has been Head of the Mass ­Spectrometry unit at the Institute of Organic Chemistry I, Bielefeld University, since June 2012. His research work ... more

More about Uni Jena

  • News

    Fungus produces highly effective surfactant

    Mortierella alpina lives in the soil and likes to keep cool. This fungus, which belongs to the zygomycetes, grows best at temperatures of 10 to 15°C and occurs mainly in alpine or arctic habitats. In biotechnology, the fungus has been used for the large-scale production of polyunsaturated f ... more

    Simulating nature’s cosmic laboratory, one helium droplet at a time

    Two astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and from the University of Jena have found an elegant new method to measure the energy of simple chemical reactions, under similar conditions as those encountered by atoms and molecules in the early solar system. Their method promi ... more

    How a fungus can cripple the immune system

    It is everywhere – and it is extremely dangerous for people with a weakened immune system. The fungus Aspergillus fumigatus occurs virtually everywhere on Earth, as a dark grey, wrinkled cushion on damp walls or in microscopically small spores that blow through the air and cling to wallpape ... more

  • q&more articles

    Genes on sugar

    The targeted transport of DNA and RNA using vectors (mostly made from synthetic polymers) in cell cultures has become part of routine practice in biological R&D – a fact highlighted by the multitude of commercial kits now available. To date, however, obstacles relating to use in patients ha ... more

    Highly-prized components

    The isolation of bioactive plant ingredients, essential oils or dyes and flavourings of plant origin requires costly and sophisticated procedures. Several applications do not actually require isolation of the individual components, however – their concentration is sufficient. Moreover, for ... more

    Molecules in the mirror

    In 1871 the children‘s book “Through the Looking-Glass – And What Alice Found There” by the English author Lewis Carroll, in which Alice enters a world behind the mirror, was published. She explains to her cat: “First there’s the room you can see through the glass – that’s just the same as ... more

  • Authors

    Prof. Dr. Thomas Heinze

    Thomas Heinze, born in 1958, studied chemistry at FSU Jena. After receiving his doctorate there in 1989 and subsequent postdoc work at KU Leuven (Belgium), he completed his habilitation in 1997. In 2001, he accepted a professorship in Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Wuppertal ... more

    Prof. Dr. Dagmar Fischer

    Dagmar Fischer is a licensed pharmacist before obtaining her doctorate in pharmaceutical technology and biopharmacy from the Philipps University of Marburg in 1997. After a period spent at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (USA), she gained several years' experience as Head of Pr ... more

    Prof. Dr. Gerhard K. E. Scriba

    born 1956, studied pharmacy in Bonn and in 1980 received the licence to practise pharmacy. He received his doctorate in 1984 at the Westphalian Wilhelms-University in Munster, where, in 1995, he qualified as a professor in the subject of pharmaceutical chemistry. In 1999 he was appointed to ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by:

 

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE