Cutting edge microscopy tracks cellular traffic

September 18th, 2012 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 18 (IANS) Researchers can now observe and track masses of cellular movement under 3D microscopy, potentially speeding up drug discovery and monitoring rogue microbes.

Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), followed an unprecedented 24,000 rapidly moving cells over wide fields of view and through large sample volumes, recording each cell’s path for as long as 20 seconds.

“We can very precisely track the motion of small things, more than a thousand of them at the same time, in parallel,” said Aydogan Ozcan, electrical engineering and bioengineering professor at UCLA, who led the research, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported.

“This latest study is an extension of truly novel and creative work,” said Leon Esterowitz, the National Science Foundation biophotonics programme officer who has supported Ozcan’s efforts, according to an UCLA statement.

“The holographic technique could accelerate drug discovery and prove valuable for monitoring pharmaceutical treatments of dangerous microbial diseases,” he added.

The same approach may also enable scientists to study quick-moving, single-celled microorganisms. Many of the dangerous protozoa found in unsanitary drinking water and rural bodies of water have only been observed in small samples moving through an area that is roughly two dimensional.

The latest study is an extension of several years of work by Ozcan and colleagues to develop lens-free, holographic microscopy techniques with applications for field-based detection of blood-borne diseases and other areas of tele-medicine.

Ozcan and colleagues Ting-Wei Su and Liang Xue, from UCLA and Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China, respectively, used offset beams of red and blue light to create holographic information that, when processed using sophisticated software, accurately reveal the paths of objects moving under a microscope.

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