Scientists Develop a 3D Microscope That Doesn’t Damage Cells

Traditional microscopes rely on light and electrons for studying the insides of a cell. However, to properly study every part of the cell, it needs to be injected with chemical stains to ensure visibility.

In most cases, these stains end up destroying the cell either by permanently damaging it or by killing it. This is a problem as scientists want to study the lifespan of a cell by carrying out multiple experiments on it using certain stimuli.


Lucky for them, we have some good news. It looks like engineers have finally made a breakthrough in solving the problem.

A group of scientists and engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed a technique that works as an MRI for cells. It lets you see the internal structure of the cells, down to the organelles, without destroying it.

How it Works

As mentioned earlier, the microscope acts like an MRI machine with a resolution of less than 200 nm. The microscope also employs photogrammetry to create a 3D image of the cell. The cell is photographed from all angles and the data is sent to the software which pieces the images together to form a single 3D image.

The cell is illuminated by pulses of laser, similar to what is done using a synthetic aperture radar. Using this microscope, scientists will now be able to study cells throughout their lifespan with better accuracy.

Lars Hufnagel, one of the group leaders of European Molecular Biology Laboratory said,

Many important biological processes occur in three dimensions and on millisecond timescales. Our new method allows us to study processes both in 3D and on timescales of 200 images per second. On top of that, it delivers up to ten times better, namely truly isotropic, resolution than classic light-field microscopy.