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New microscope peers into secret lives of cells
Date:11/21/2007

See those white sparks? asks Kirk Czymmek, as he points to the video on his computer screen of a highly magnified heart cell in action. Tiny fireworks flash across the screen with every pulsation of the cell.

That's calcium, Czymmek notes. Scientists have discovered that there is a large release of calcium with every heartbeat. If we don't see those sparks, he notes, you have a major problem--perhaps even heart failure.

Czymmek has a bird's-eye view into the fascinating and rarely seen world of the microscopic, as director of the University of Delaware's Bio-imaging Center.

The center, a component of UD's Delaware Biotechnology Institute, is equipped with the latest technology for microscopic explorations into a diversity of intriguing subjects under investigation by University researchers, from plants that can decontaminate soils of toxic metal pollutants, to carbon nano-bombs for destroying cancer cells.

Czymmek, who also is an associate professor of biological sciences at UD, recently showcased the latest addition to the University's suite of high-tech imaging tools--a state-of-the-art laser-scanning confocal microscope. UD is among a handful of universities that own one of the million-dollar instruments.

The device, known as the LSM 510 DUO, manufactured by Carl Zeiss MicroImaging Inc., typically uses a laser beam to observe a single focal point at a time on its subject--acquiring over a quarter-million picture elements, or pixels, in a single scan, which takes about one second. However, if the laser beam is shaped into a line and swept across the sample, it can scan an image over 100 times faster.

The microscope is particularly useful in examining thick samples such as muscle tissue at high resolution, Czymmek says, because a series of scans may be made at different depths within the sample and assembled automatically in minutes, yielding breathtakingly detailed, three-dimensional images, much like an
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware  
Source:Eurekalert

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