Scientists invent world’s smallest periscopes

February 26th, 2009 - 6:08 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Feb 26 (ANI): A team of scientists at Vanderbilt University in the US has invented the world’s smallest version of the periscope and are using it to look at cells and other micro-organisms from several sides at once.

“With an off-the-shelf laboratory microscope you only see cells from one side, the top,” said team member Chris Janetopoulos, assistant professor of biological sciences.

“Not only can we see the tops of cells, we can view their sides as well - something biologists almost never see,” he added.

The researchers have dubbed their devices “mirrored pyramidal wells.”

As the name implies, they consist of pyramidal-shaped cavities molded into silicon whose interior surfaces are coated with a reflective layer of gold or platinum.

They are microscopic in dimension - about the width of a human hair - and can be made in a range of sizes to view different-sized objects.

When a cell is placed in such a well and viewed with a regular optical microscope, the researcher can see several sides simultaneously.

“This technology is exciting because these mirrored wells can be made at very low cost, unlike other, more complex methods for 3D microscopy,” said Assistant Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering Kevin Seale.

According to Ron Reiserer, a lab manager at the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE), “This could easily become as ubiquitous as the microscope slide and could replace more expensive methods currently used to position individual cells.”

So far, the researchers have used the mirrored wells to examine how protozoa swim and cells divide.

“The method is particularly well suited for studying dynamic processes within cells because it can follow them in three dimensions,” said Janetopoulos.

Researchers in his lab have used the wells to track the 3D position of the centrosome - the specialized region of a cell next to the nucleus that is the assembly point where the microscopic polymer tubes that serve as part of the cell’s cytoskeleton are assembled before cell division and broken down afterwards.

The mirrored pyramidal wells provide a high resolution, multi-vantage-point form of microscopy that also makes it easier for researchers to measure a number of important cell properties.

In addition, John P. Wikswo, Gordon A. Cain University Professor and Director of VIIBRE, and, Dmitry A. Markov, research associate in biomedical engineering, plan to create mirrored microchannels to measure how cells are deformed under stress induced by fluid flowing through hair-width channels in order to determine how fluid flow affects cell behavior and attachment. (ANI)

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