Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Precision of microscopy increased by expanding tissue up to 10 times its size

20 May 2022

A Big Look

To examine something small, you can either look very closely, or try to make it bigger. Microscopy – fundamental to biomedical science, as the BPoD archive shows – has long helped magnify the miniscule matter of our bodies. But conventional light microscopy’s detail is limited by the physical properties of light, and other techniques are financially and technically demanding. Expansion microscopy aims to provide greater precision in a more accessible way, by enlarging samples, rather than increasing magnification. Samples are embedded in a gel that then swells. The original technique expanded samples four-fold, but a new approach has explored alternative hydrogel recipes to cook up a version that can expand to up to 10 times its size. The result is a comparatively simple technique that enlarges mouse brain tissue and human cell cultures (3D render shown, with distinct cellular structures clearly visible), broadening access to the finest details of life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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