It’s been a big week for the world of the small. In a new microscope breakthrough, researchers have figured out how to use a minuscule sheet of light to produce movies of living cells, revealing mitosis in action and illuminating cells' three-dimensional architecture with the greatest detail ever seen.
The technique uses a highly focused, super-thin beam of light similar to the type used in supermarket checkout scanners. It could allow cell biologists to watch the molecular underpinnings of cell action as they unfold.
“In looking at living systems, you want to be God. You want to have this omniscient power and be able to look at all time scales — not just single cells sitting on a microscope cover slip, but observe what’s happening in a single molecule in a single cell that is inside your heart right now. That’s the dream,” said Eric Betzig, research leader at the Janelia Farm Research Campus, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “You want to have this (omniscience) in a way that the organism is completely unaware and unaffected by that observation.”