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3-D microscopy offers unparalleled view of cell features

Recent advances in microscopic imaging are bringing game-changing progress toward understanding public health problems such as aging, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney and liver disease and developmental disorders.

Scientists can examine molecular features and cell- and tissue-specific relationships at high resolution in three-dimensional (3-D) and large overall volumes. This information can be digitally sampled, offering an unparalleled view of macromolecular complexes, cells and tissues of interest.

Unique microscopy for Minnesota researchers

Minnesota researchers now have access to this capability through serial block face electron microscopy and data sharing, thanks to funding from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics awarded to Jeffrey L. Salisbury, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; and Claudia Neuhauser, Ph.D., University of Minnesota.

The award provides electron microscopy instrumentation, cyberinfrastructure and expertise to researchers at Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and the Hormel Institute.

This unique microscopy allows investigators to visualize biological structures at high resolution in 3-D space, bridging the gap between super-resolution and multiphoton optical microscopy and standard transmission electron microscopy.

Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, has used serial block face electron microscopy to examine hippocampal tissue from an Alzheimer' mouse model (see figure 1). This view of detailed 3-D architecture at high resolution reveals new information — specifically, the expansion of an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plate or cisterna over a region of the mitochondria where fission (division of the mitochondria into two separate organelles) appears to be underway.

Translating microscopy discoveries into practice

Such information would not be possible to glean using conventional techniques and represents only a fraction of the total specimen volume imaged.

High-resolution electron microscopy is one of three areas funded by Minnesota Partnership infrastructure awards to provide biomedical researchers in Minnesota with high-tech research tools.

The technique is available through Mayo Clinic's Microscopy and Cell Analysis Core, one of 24 Research Core Services supporting investigators in their work to advance discoveries that translate into medical practice. This research, spanning a range of specialties, including dentistry, cardiology, gastroenterology, obstetrics, gynecology and orthopedics, among others, has a direct impact on patient care.

To learn more about the Microscopy and Cell Analysis Core and other Core resources available to research teams, log into the Mayo Clinic network and visit the Research Core Services intranet site.

More information

If you have a project that would benefit from high-resolution electron microscopy, contact the Microscopy and Cell Analysis Core.