Two young EPFL scientists have developed a device that can create 3D images of living cells and track their reaction to various stimuli without the use of contrast dyes or fluorophores.
In the world of microscopy, this advance is almost comparable to the leap from photography to live television. Two young EPFL researchers, Yann Cotte and Fatih Toy, have designed a device that combines holographic microscopy and computational image processing to observe living biological tissues at the nanoscale. Their research is being done under the supervision of Christian Depeursinge, head of the Microvision and Microdiagnostics Group in EPFL’s School of Engineering.
Using their setup, three-dimensional images of living cells can be obtained in just a few minutes – instantaneous operation is still in the works – at an incredibly precise resolution of less than 100 nanometers, 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. And because they’re able to do this without using contrast dyes or fluorescents, the experimental results don’t run the risk of being distorted by the presence of foreign substances.
Being able to capture a living cell from every angle like this lays the groundwork for a whole new field of investigation. “We can observe in real time the reaction of a cell that is subjected to any kind of stimulus,” explains Cotte. “This opens up all kinds of new opportunities, such as studying the effects of pharmaceutical substances at the scale of the individual cell, for example.”