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Sharp images from the living mouse brain
Date:2/6/2012

his team at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry is a groundbreaking method devised to surpass this resolution limit. They use a simple trick: Closely-positioned elements are kept dark under a special laser beam so that they emit fluorescence sequentially one after the other, rather than simultaneously, and can therefore be distinguished. Using this technique, Hell's team has been able to increase the resolution by approximately tenfold compared to conventional optical microscopes.

STED microscopy has already found wide application in fields ranging from materials research to cell biology. Under this microscope, cell cultures and histological preparations have offered unique insights into the cellular nanocosmos. The first real-time video clips from the interior of a nerve cell have demonstrated how tiny transmitter vesicles migrate within the long nerve cell endings.

A vision becomes reality

What was only an ambitious vision a year ago has now become reality: to also study higher living organisms at this sharp resolution in the nanometer range. By looking directly into the brains of living mice using a STED microscope, Hell and his team were the first ones to image nerve cells in the upper brain layer of the rodent with resolution far beyond the diffraction limit.

"With our STED microscope we can clearly see the very fine dendritic structures of nerve cells at which the synapses are located in the brain of a living mouse. At a resolution of 70 nanometers, we easily recognize these so-called dendritic spines with their mushroom- or button-shaped heads," explains Hell. They are the clearest images of these fundamental contact sites in the brain to date. "To make these visible, we take genetically modified mice that produce large quantities of a yellow fluorescing protein in their nerve cells. This protein migrates into all the branches of the nerve cell, even into smallest, finest structures," adds Katrin Wil
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Contact: Stefan W. Hell
shell@gwdg.de
49-551-201-2500
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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