A team of scientists working at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has used x-ray diffraction microscopy to create images of whole yeast cells, reportedly achieving the highest resolution ever obtained with this method for biological specimens. Their success indicates that full 3-D tomography of whole cells at equivalent resolution should soon be possible.
“We have demonstrated that lensless imaging techniques can achieve high resolution while overcoming the limitations of x-ray optics—limitations that include requiring 20 to 50 times the radiation exposure to get a magnified image of the sample,” says Chris Jacobsen, formerly of Stony Brook University, now of Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University. “While at present it takes us a long time to image a single specimen—and full 3-D imaging of hydrated cells will take even more work—this is a big step in the right direction.”
Three-dimensional imaging of whole cells under conditions close to those in nature, namely a hydrated environment, is already done at the National Center for X-Ray Tomography at ALS beamline 2.1, under the direction of Carolyn Larabell of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, where large numbers of cells can be processed in a short time at resolutions of 40 to 60 nanometers. The ability to increase resolution to the 10-nanometer range would significantly advance research in both biology and materials sciences.
More information on the research is available from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.