MEMS provides clearer view of living cells

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Scientists at the Universities of Boston and Oxford are using MEMS-based deformable mirrors to create images that delve deeper into living cells. Researchers say the technique could have important applications in skin cancer and neurological research.

‘The best way to study cells is in their natural environment, not on a glass slide,’ said Dr Martin Booth, one of the researchers at the University of Oxford.

The scientists at Boston used a technique called multiphoton microscopy to observe the cells and their processors in vivo. While this is not a new technique, the mirrors provided a higher resolution and a deeper view of the tissue by changing their shape to better focus the image, and reject the fluorescence background of the thick tissue. It is a technique that could also provide greater insight into neural signalling processes.

‘Being able to see deeper into tissue will help the development of real-time histology techniques,’ said Professor Jerome Mertz of Boston University’s Biomedical Engineering Biomicroscopy Lab. ‘And because you can monitor tissue health in-situ, this technique will hopefully help in the screening and diagnosis of skin cancer.’

Meanwhile, the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science are looking at research into correcting aberrations in high-resolution fluorescence microscopy, which will extend to multiphoton microscopy this summer.

‘As a technology that will extend the practical imaging depth in tissue, adaptive optics multi photon microscopy has significant potential for biomedical imaging,’ said Dr Booth.