Biology

3D Cell Explorer produces 3D holograms of living cells in near real time

3D Cell Explorer produces 3D h...
3D Cell Explorer scanned this digitally "stained" cancer cell, offering researchers a new nanometer-scale look into live cells
3D Cell Explorer scanned this digitally "stained" cancer cell, offering researchers a new nanometer-scale look into live cells
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Growing yeast cells were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer
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Growing yeast cells were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer
Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer in conjuction with its software tool STEVE is smaller than traditional microscopes and offers nanometer resolution, 3D modeling, and digital staining
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Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer in conjuction with its software tool STEVE is smaller than traditional microscopes and offers nanometer resolution, 3D modeling, and digital staining
New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
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New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
3D Cell Explorer scanned this digitally "stained" cancer cell, offering researchers a new nanometer-scale look into live cells
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3D Cell Explorer scanned this digitally "stained" cancer cell, offering researchers a new nanometer-scale look into live cells
New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
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New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymphatic endothelial cell to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
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New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymphatic endothelial cell to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
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New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
T-cell interactions with antigens were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer
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T-cell interactions with antigens were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer
New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast and its organelles to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
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New research tool 3D Cell Explorer scanned this lymph node fibroblast and its organelles to a nanometer resolution while it was still alive
Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer is smaller than traditional microscopes and offers nanometer resolution, 3D modeling, and digital staining
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Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer is smaller than traditional microscopes and offers nanometer resolution, 3D modeling, and digital staining
Using the digital staining process in STEVE which incorporates different IR values to identify and mark organelles and other intracellular features
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Using the digital staining process in STEVE which incorporates different IR values to identify and mark organelles and other intracellular features
View gallery - 11 images

Swiss company Nanolive has created 3D Cell Explorer, a new technology that creates vibrantly detailed 3D holograms of living cells on the nanometric scale. Created through combining 3D imagery with digital staining, the new microscope offers researchers and hospitals a novel tool to non-invasively peer inside living cells almost in real time, opening up new areas of biological research.

Looking directly at living cells is still rare in microscopy because, well, life moves. While an electron microscope might give a better resolution than 3D Cell Explorer, it comes at the cost of not being able to evaluate the cell responding to its environment, as is possible with Nanolive's living cell tomography technology.

T-cell interactions with antigens were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer
T-cell interactions with antigens were able to be observed in 3D and while alive, thanks to Nanolive's 3D Cell Explorer

Creating the holograph is achieved by directing a laser at a steep angle through the sample and then rotating the laser to obtain multiple angles. Slices of the cell are stacked back together in the accompanying software tool, named STEVE. Users can then recreate a 3D image of the cell to manipulate and watch with a delay of less than a second.

Instead of preparing dyed cells for hours before observing them under a fluorescent microscope, STEVE uses the different refractive (IR) values obtained from the holography scans to let users digitally "stain" similar values. In practice, any cellular material would have a different IR, so a cell nucleus might stand out opposite its cytoplasm and organelles. In this manner, a scientist can change what he or she is looking for on the fly.

Using the digital staining process in STEVE which incorporates different IR values to identify and mark organelles and other intracellular features
Using the digital staining process in STEVE which incorporates different IR values to identify and mark organelles and other intracellular features

The end result of this process is a noninvasive procedure that overcomes what was historically thought of as a natural limitation on light microscopy to obtain results down to 70 nm in living cells. Another scientist, Eric Betzig, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2014 for creating a method of microscopy that also overcame the diffraction limit of light (super-resolution microscopy) and said of his findings, "You really need to be able to look at living cells because life is animate — it’s what defines life."

Research leading to 3D Cell Explorer began in Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), where Nanolive's founders Yann Cotte and Fatih Toywere were obtaining their PhDs. They originally published their research in Nature Photonics in January 2013.

3D Cell Explorer is available for preorders through Nanolive, though STEVE can be downloaded to try now for free. The cheapest offered price to reserve your own 3D holographic microscope is €13,930 (US$14,685).

In the video below, watch as a scientist loads a sample into 3D Cell Explorer and creates a digitally dyed 3D model of a cell.

Source: Nanolive, BioTechniques

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