Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Celestial Connections
24 April 2014

Celestial Connections

Adopting techniques from astronomers and ophthalmologists [eye experts], biologists have found a novel way to produce sharper microscope images. Like the atmosphere and an eye’s lens, biological samples bend light in peculiar ways, producing information that’s difficult for microscopes to interpret. Astronomers have learnt to overcome such light-bending by shining a laser – known as a guide star – into the atmosphere and measuring the distortion of the returning light. They then use this measurement to tweak the telescope’s mirror to correct the aberrations. Biologists have mimicked this technique by using a fluorescent object, such as a cell body, as a ‘guide star’. And thanks to this novel method, here we can see with remarkable clarity a network of nerve cells deep in the brain of a living zebrafish.

Written by Nick Kennedy

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