The microscope that observes the development of the embryo

The microscope is ready to observe the development of embryos in real time, in 3D and in a completely non-invasive way: built in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Embl) in Heilberg. The research, published in the journal Nature Methods, is coordinated by the Italian Carlo Bevilacqua and promises to shed light on the dynamics of the processes that occur in embryonic development, revealing new and important biological mechanisms.

“The innovations we have introduced to the microscope, such as the ability to scan a line of 100 dots simultaneously instead of a single dot at a time, reduced damage from light, and the ability to visualize cellular components of interest, have allowed us to observe mechanical properties during rapid embryonic development processes, with light-sensitive samples and with subcellular resolution,” Bevilacqua told ANSA.

The researchers took their cue from a microscopy technique based on the so-called ‘Brillouin scattering’, the phenomenon theorized in 1922 by the physicist Léon Brillouin, in which the light projected onto a material interacts with the thermal vibrations that occur naturally inside it, exchanging energy during the process. This, in turn, affects the way light is reflected, and by measuring its color, certain physical characteristics of the material can be derived. Unfortunately, this technique is very slow, as it collects information from a single spot in the sample at a time, and can damage highly light-sensitive tissue.

The authors of the study therefore developed a new technique which, as Bevilacqua observes, overcomes the problems of the traditional one: the new microscope is capable of collecting information simultaneously from many different points, increasing the speed of analysis by at least a hundred times, and thanks infrared light provides much higher resolution while also reducing the risk of cell damage. Furthermore, the method also makes it possible to exploit fluorescence to visualize the active molecules, obtaining complete ‘maps’ in three dimensions. The researchers have already tested the microscope with fruit flies, mice and a marine organism called Phallusia mammillata.

Source: Ansa

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