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Novel microscopy method offers sharper view of brain's neural network
Date:8/23/2012

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23Shortly after the Hubble Space Telescope went into orbit in 1990 it was discovered that the craft had blurred vision. Fortunately, Space Shuttle astronauts were able to remedy the problem a few years later with supplemental optics. Now, a team of Italian researchers has performed a similar sight-correcting feat for a microscope imaging technique designed to explore a universe seemingly as vast as Hubble's but at the opposite end of the size spectrumthe neural pathways of the brain.

"Our system combines the best feature of one microscopy techniquehigh-speed, single-plane imaging of multiple sections of a samplewith a second method that eliminates the accompanying problem of scattered background light leading to blurriness," says Francesco Pavone, leader of a collaborative team from six Italian research agencies and one of the authors of a paper describing the advance that is published today in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.

Light-sheet based microscopy (LSM), also known as single plane illumination microscopy (SPIM), is a state-of-the-art microscope imaging method in which a biological sample is illuminated with a thin sheet of lightprovided by a laser beam narrowed to just a few microns, or millionths of a meter, acrosscoming from the side rather than from above or below as with traditional light sources. Fluorescence bouncing off the illuminated sample radiates upward through a lens, gets focused and is captured by a digital camera.

Because the light sheet illuminates the part of the sample directly in the same plane, only a single section of the target is imaged at a time. Raising and lowering the illumination plane, as well as rotating the sample, rapidly produces a series of two-dimensional sectional views known as "slices" that can yield a 3-D map of a whole organism or any of its organs/systems when the individual 2-D visual pieces are brought together.

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Contact: Angela Stark
astark@osa.org
202-416-1443
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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