This microscope shows cells in 3D in real time

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Researchers have discovered a new method for creating 3D images with a microscope. By adding two rotating mirrors, they can view the specimen from multiple angles in real time.

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To better understand the microscopic world, scientists are able to create 3D images. However, the process is limited because it is very long, requiring a lot of manipulations and calculations. In an article published in Nature Methods, researchers from the Southwestern Medical School of the University of Texas have detailed a new simple method and up to 100 times faster, by equipping microscopes with two rotating mirrors.

Currently, to obtain a 3D image, microscopes must take a hundred two-dimensional images that are then compiled on a powerful computer that calculates projections from different angles. These two steps are particularly time-consuming. Thanks to the addition of two mirrors on the microscope camera, these operations are no longer necessary and researchers can display images from multiple angles in real time and interact with the specimen in virtual reality.

A technique that works on different microscopes

The researchers developed their system based on two light-sheet microscopes. A crucial step in the classic method for compiling images is the correction of the misalignment to remove distortions. Trying to carry out the operation optically, with the two mirrors, they discovered that with a bad correction, the object seemed to rotate. They then realized that they had just created a microscope capable of rotating the specimen without manipulations.

The same technique has worked with other types of microscopes. The researchers were thus able to display ionsions of calciumcalcium which transmit signals between nerve cells, cancer cells in motion or observe the heartbeats of a zebrafish.

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