Modern biological research and neuroscience calls for innovative technologies enabling optical detection of biological events in real-time at high speeds and resolution, since many biological events take place in the millisecond time-scale. Addressing this, researchers at the University of Leicester have now devised an innovative digital confocal microscope 100 times faster than contemporary models without compromising image quality.
Taking a cue from electronics like projectors, the device produces high-resolution images and can be bolted on to the regular microscopes to project light through a system of mirrors on the sample. Of the patterns of illumination projected onto the specimen only light precisely in the plane of focus returns along the same path and is reflected by the mirror onto a camera to form an image. This digital micro-mirror can be programmed to alter the size and spacing of mirrors to easily adjust the illumination pattern suited for different specimens and imaging conditions, and also to choose image quality, providing ease of use and flexibility. Moreover image quality is further improved by rejecting unwanted light reflected from out of focus regions of the specimen. The resulting images can be scanned on a computer at approximately 100 frames per second, showing biological processes such as cell activity at much higher speeds than regular microscopes which cap at around 1 frame per second.
Professor Nick Hartell of Leicester University's Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, leading the research, plans to use this device to study cell mechanisms involved in the brain's storage of memories. Providing a breakthrough from traditional Nipkow disk technologies this device stands to be commercialised with assistance from a leading scientific instrument manufacturer. Access full research artilce here.
Source: PLoS ONE
Image: A layer of bacteria expressing mEO2 was photo-activated with 405 nm light. The image on the left shows the resulting loss of green fluorescence where the photoactivation took place. The image on the right shows the appearance of red fluorescence