Scientists increase imaging efficiency in cell structure studies

Sep 03, 2009

Scientists in the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Laboratory of Bioengineering and Physical Science have developed a new technique that allows researchers to visualize fine details of cell structure three-dimensionally in thick sections, thus providing greater insight into how cells are organized and how they function. The work is described in a report published online this week in Nature Methods.

The new electron tomography method, referred to as BF STEM tomography, lets researchers image samples that are more than three times the thickness of typical samples.

Electron tomography is carried out at the nanoscale on individual cells. Conventionally, high-resolution imaging of biological specimens has been accomplished by cutting cells into thin sections (300 nanometers or less) and imaging each section separately. Although reconstructing an entire structure from thin sections is laborious, thin sections are used because images of thicker sections typically are blurred. Serial BF STEM tomography accomplishes the same work using fewer yet thicker specimen sections, leading to faster reconstruction of intact organelles, intracellular pathogens, and even entire mammalian cells.

Drs. Alioscka Sousa, Martin Hohmann-Marriott, Richard Leapman and colleagues in NIBIB, in collaboration with Dr. Joshua Zimmerberg and colleagues in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), demonstrated feasibility and advantages of BF-STEM tomography in a study of infected with , a parasite that causes malaria. High-resolution 3D reconstructions of entire cells were generated by serially imaging just a few thick sections. The intricate system of red blood cell and parasite membranes, as well as several organelles, can be seen in detail.

"We believe that the new technique, which was conceived by Dr. Sousa on the project team, will lead to improved 3D visualization of larger internal structures in mammalian cells at a nanoscale. And it will complement cryo electron tomography and super-resolution optical imaging approaches," according to Dr. Leapman.

Most high-performance electron microscopes can readily be equipped to utilize the BF STEM tomography approach. "This exciting new method, with its ability to provide nanoscale structural details over three dimensions, has the potential for broad application in cell biology," says NIBIB Director Roderic Pettigrew. "This should open new vistas in the understanding of the interplay between cellular structure and function, and is a great example of NIBIB-supported research that moves medical science forward through technological innovation."

Source: NIH/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering

Explore further: Noted researchers warn that biomedical research system in US is unsustainable

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The closest look ever at native human tissue

Dec 05, 2007

Seeing proteins in their natural environment and interactions inside cells has been a long-standing goal. Using an advanced microscopy technique called cryo-electron tomography, researchers from the European ...

Molecular anatomy of influenza virus detailed

Dec 30, 2006

Scientists at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville ...

An architectural plan of the cell

Mar 06, 2007

Like our body every cell has a skeleton that provides it with a shape, confers rigidity and protects its fragile inner workings. The cytoskeleton is built of long protein filaments that assemble into networks ...

MIT creates 3-D images of living cell

Aug 12, 2007

A new imaging technique developed at MIT has allowed scientists to create the first 3D images of a living cell, using a method similar to the X-ray CT scans doctors use to see inside the body.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

45 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

3 hours ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...