This new 3D microscope will solve one of cell biology’s biggest problems

There’s a problem in cell biology research: to study what happens inside a cell, it has to be destroyed. When scientists use a traditional microscope to observe a cell, they use stains — chemicals that color parts of the cell to make them visible. However, these stains cause damage and kill the cell prematurely. This might not be a problem for long though, as scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed a technique to look inside living cells without damaging them.

A new 3D microscope, called CX-A, can see the internal structure of cells down to the organelles with a resolution of less than 200nm. The microscope works like an MRI machine for cells, taking images from all angles which can be pieced together into a 3D image. This is huge for scientists as it will allow scientists to study cells throughout their lifespan. Cells can be observed over periods of hours, days or weeks, so scientists can perform experiments by introducing stimuli and seeing how cells react over time. 

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