Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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New technique enables detailed scanning inside cells

28 February 2021

An Ion Life

Cell biologists often use fluorescent dyes to light up life within cells. But, like astronauts watching twinkling cites from space, distinguishing details is a challenge. Here a new technique uses multiplexed ion beam imaging to take detailed scans inside a single human cell, mapping out the contours of nanoscale structures while computer algorithms assemble them into 3D. With the cell’s DNA highlighted in blue, the techniques shed new light on tiny machinery involved in two of its most important processes – transcription, where the cell makes portable copies or ‘transcripts’ (red) of genes, and sites of DNA replication (green), essential for cell division and growth. Examining the organisation of these structures reveals clues to the health of the cell, and could form the basis of new diagnostic tests.

Written by John Ankers

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