DIY your structured-illumination microscope

DIY your structured-illumination microscope

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Scientists at EPFL have published a guide to building an add-on that turns a standard optical microscope into an instrument capable of producing super resolution, 3D images of cells, organoids, and embryos – EPFL

For hundreds of years, the optical microscope was the only tool available to scientists wanting to study the movement of cells, bacteria and yeast. But the diffraction of light made it impossible to observe objects at resolutions of less than 100 nm because the resulting images were too blurry to be of any use. This physical limit – known as the diffraction barrier – was finally overcome around 15 years ago with the development of super-resolution microscopy, allowing scientists to peer deep inside living specimens, study the behavior of organelles, and observe how cells interact with viruses, proteins and drug molecules.

One of these new methods, known as structured illumination microscopy (SIM), is highly prized by researchers because it produces high-resolution and high-contrast images with low photon exposure. Despite the advent of nanometer-resolution electron microscopes, optical imaging continues to play a key role in life-science research: it offers greater flexibility in terms of equipment and lets scientists observe live samples in normal developmental conditions.

However, cost and availability constraints mean that SIM imaging remains out of reach for many. To get around this problem, scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory for Bio- and Nano-Instrumentation (LBNI) within the Interfaculty Institute for Bioengineering (IBI) at EPFL’s School of Engineering (STI), have developed a way to transform a standard optical microscope into a high-resolution device using inexpensive, commercially available components. The team has published a detailed how-to guide in open-access format, along with a series of video tutorials.



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