Lasers aren’t just for Bond villains. Intense light beams also have important scientific applications by helping to accurately identify different tissue types. When a laser hits a sample, a tiny fraction of the beam interacts with the organic molecules, whose natural vibrations alter the light's wavelength. As each molecule vibrates at a different rate, the returning light contains a hotchpotch of frequencies that represent a unique fingerprint of the sample's components. This technique can render exquisite detail, like in this mouse liver, where cell nuclei (shown in blue) and different proteins (in orange and green) are all easily distinguished. Until recently though, the necessary trade-offs between speed of scanning and resolution have limited its use in biological and clinical research. But a new technique allows for almost real-time imaging without sacrificing on quality, giving scientists another tool to bring to the fight against the biological bad guys in their secret lairs.
Written by Jan Piotrowski