Watch Immune Cell Migration

Most of us haven’t really seen a cell, apart from diagrams in books, or if you were lucky enough at school through a microscope but neither of these really give you a 3D perspective of a cell. Although better equipped than most to understand the cell, even scientists haven’t really had a 3D perspective of cells until now. New research from Howard Hughes Medical Institute has for the first time created a 3D imaging system for inside the body. The video above is the inner ear of a Zebrafish and shows an immune cell rolling through and eating particles of sugar. The immune cell looks nothing like our textbook drawings of round flat circles and it is amazing to watch, to say the least. We have been able to see cells under a microscope for 100’s of years but for most of this time, they have been squished between glass slides and this isn’t exactly their natural state. That’s a problem, says physicist Eric Betzig, the group leader behind this new breakthrough. “This raises the nagging doubt that we are not seeing cells in their native state, happily ensconced in the organism in which they evolved.” In order to get their new microscope working, they took a page out of the astronomy playbook. Earth’s atmosphere interferes with our earthbound observations so to get around this astronomers us a method called adaptive optics which uses mirrors that a computer can deform to correct the images. So using this method, Betzig combined adaptive optics with a lattice light sheet microscopy. This imaging technique sweeps an ultra-thin sheet of light through the cell, building a high-resolution 3D movie from the 2D images it takes in real time. We’ve had this technology at our fingertips, but it’s been too complicated and expensive to be practical, even for advanced research labs. Betzig wants to change that. “Technical demonstrations and publications don’t amount to a hill of beans,” he says. “The only metric by which a microscope should be judged is how many people use it, and the significance of what they discover with it.” While his current microscope fills a 10-foot-long table, his team is working on a smaller one they hope will fit on a small desk and sport a more reasonable price tag.

Share This Science News


more insights