EMBL: New 3D microscope

This illustration, based on real data shows the heart of a Japanese rice fish. The green and blue laser beams demonstrate how the newly developed 3D imaging microscope is scanning the heart. IMAGE: Tobias Wüstenfeld

A newly developed 3D microscope visualises fast biological processes better than ever.

Researchers from EMBL Heidelberg have combined their expertise to develop a new type of microscope. The revolutionary new light-field microscopy system makes it possible to study fast biological processes, creating up to 200 3D images per second. Initial tests have already delivered new insights into the movement of blood cells in a heart.

“Many important biological processes occur in three dimensions and on millisecond timescales,” says Lars Hufnagel on the rationale for developing the new microscope. Capturing these fast processes is a big challenge in biology. And showing them not only in 2D but in 3D is – next to the needed high resolution – the second main aspect of modern microscopy.

The new light-field microscopy system developed by EMBL group leaders Lars Hufnagel, Robert Prevedel and their teams overcomes both hurdles at once. “Our new method allows us to study processes both in 3D and on timescales of 200 images per second,” says Robert Prevedel. Lars Hufnagel adds: “On top of that, it delivers up to ten times better, namely truly isotropic, resolution than classic light field microscopy.”

Previously developed microscopes, mostly based on light-sheet approaches, have also attempted to image fast biological processes but have only achieved much slower speeds than the new technique. As such, they were too slow to see dynamic processes within hearts and neuronal cells.

Research paper: Nils Wagner, Nils Norlin, Jakob Gierten, Gustavo de Medeiros, Bálint Balázs, Joachim Wittbrodt, Lars Hufnagel and Robert Prevedel: ‘Instantaneous isotropic volumetric imaging of fast biological processes’. Nature Methods, published online on 29 April 2019.

Original News.