Revealing the inner beauty by 3D structured illumination microscopy

Posted by Hamed Shateri Najafabadi

John W. Sedat and his team at the University of California, San Francisco, have developed a revolutionary method for visualizing the cells. Their new “3D-structured illumination microscopy”, or 3D-SIM, analyzes the changes that happen in the light interference pattern when a fine cellular structure reflects the light, and interprets the image with a resolution of about 100nm, almost twice as good as the resolution of the state-of-the-art confocal laser scanning microscopes – shamefully, that was all I could understand from the physics of this microscope! This technique is fascinating in that, in contrast to the electrone microscopy techniques, it can be used for specific labeling of molecules using the very conventional methods such as labeling with fluorescent antibodies. There is no need to change the protocols that you currently use for preparing the specimens; just the micropscope is different. In a report in Science, Sedat and his team demonstrate the ability of this technique in resolving multicolor images of the nuclear periphery with an unprecedented precision, revealing exciting features such as presence of chromatin-deprived spaces just below the foci of nuclear pore complexes (see figure below).

Simultaneous imaging of DNA, nuclear lamina, and NPC epitopes by 3D-SIM

Some images are so stunning:

Cell division

A nucleus from a mouse-muscle stem cell

P.S. Also see the first comment; Marie-Luise has kindly written a description on the physics behind 3D-SIM.