The researchers said that these structures have only been observed using specialized strains and plasmids and fluorescence techniques, and usually on non-living cells. These new methods provide a practical way for non-invasive study of such structures.
Mustafa Mir is first author on the paper and member of Popescu's Quantitative Light Imaging Laboratory at Beckman. Mir said that studying and understanding the three-dimensional internal structure of living cells is essential for furthering our understanding of biological function.
"Visualizing them is extremely challenging due to their small size and transparent nature," Mir said. "This new method, however, provides a way to take advantage of the intrinsic properties of these very small, transparent cells non-invasively and without the use of fluorescence techniques and contrast agents.
"Previous studies have thus used extrinsic contrast such as fluorescence and specialized strains in combination with complex superresolution techniques for such studies. This will allow biologists to study sub-cellular structures while minimally perturbing the cell from its natural state."
The researchers wrote that the method addresses two major issues in cell microscopy: lack of contrast, due to the thin and optically transparent nature of cells, and diffraction limited resolution.
"Although several such structures have been previously identified, little is known about their function and behavior due to the practical difficulties involved in imaging them," they concluded. "The results presented here indicate that dSLIT can be used to characterize and study such sub-cellular structure in a
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Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology