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New imaging technique to look inside living cells
November 26, 2017, 4:13 pm

Researchers generally create high-resolution images of cells by slicing, dicing, dehydrating, staining and embedding dead cells in resin. However, this view of cells, prevented researchers from gaining a view of the dynamic real-time processes that take place within living cells, such as metabolic reactions or responses to diseases or treatments.

Now researchers at Northwestern University in the US have developed a novel non-invasive imaging system that makes it possible to view the sub-cellular architecture of live cells at nanometer-scale resolution. Called Ultrasound Bioprobe, the technique combines ultrasound waves with atomic force microscopy, interacting with live cells to determine the changes in their mechanical behavior.

Ultrasound Bioprobe uses ultrasound waves to non-invasively image deeply buried intracellular features. And its atomic force microscopy probe provides high sensitivity and mechanical contrast of the scattered ultrasound waves. The result is a non-destructive, remarkably high-contrast, nanoscale images of structures and components deep inside living tissues and cells.

The new invention could provide clues for early diagnostics and potential pathways for developing therapeutic strategies. The scientists now plan to expand its technique to diverse biomedical applications, such as the nano-mechanics of soft tissues such as skin, enamels, and bones to probe their three-dimensional architecture down to nanoscale spatial resolution.

The researchers pointed out that since a significant variation in cellular nanostructures and mechanics can be directly influenced by the cancer conditions of a cell, the Ultrasound Bioprobe could even expand our fundamental understanding of the nanomechanics at play within cancer cells.

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