Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Expanded View

Revealing electron microscopy-equivalent ultrastructure by combining expansion with light microscopy

15 September 2020

Expanded View

Microscopists strive for greater resolution – to pick out details as they zoom in further on life. But there are always limits, and cellular life often remains unseen inside tiny, seemingly 'invisible' ultrastructures. While some electron microscopes are up to the job, they're expensive, so here researchers try a different approach – rather than zooming in, why not stretch the cell? Blow it up, so its hidden details are easier to see, like the writing on a birthday balloon (although 20,000 times smaller). This new form of expansion microscopy embeds a human cancer cell in a cocktail of polymers which swell, stretching the cell while keeping some important features of cell divisionchromosomes (highlighted in red) and spindle fibres (blue) in place. These techniques can be combined with more common confocal microscopes, allowing labs to examine elusive ultrastructure in healthy and diseased cells without the inflated costs.

Written by John Ankers

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