January 20, 2009

New imaging technique is developed

U.S. scientists say they have developed a technique that uses a scanning transmission electron microscope to see whole cells in liquid.

The researchers said their new technique -- called liquid STEM -- uses a micro-fluidic device with electron transparent windows to enable the imaging of cells in liquid with significantly improved resolution and speed compared with existing imaging methods.

Liquid STEM has the potential to become a versatile tool for imaging cellular processes on the nanometer scale, said Vanderbilt University Assistant Professor Niels de Jonge, also a staff scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It will potentially be of great relevance for the development of molecular probes and for the understanding of the interaction of viruses with cells.

The scientists said their technique will also become a resource for energy science, as researchers use it to visualize processes that occur at liquid-solid interfaces, such as in lithium ion batteries, fuel cells or catalytic reactions.

The research is reported in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.