An interdisciplinary group of researchers at UC Davis and UCSF, in collaboration with the Issaquah, WA based Applied Precision, Inc, built the world’s first commercial OMX (Optical Microscopy eXperimental) microscope, a device designed to provide hitherto unprecedented level of resolution with visible spectrum light. According to a statement by UC Davis, this technology is not only twice as powerful as the best conventional light microscope, but it also has potential for a 10-fold improvement, possibly “allowing the imaging of small structures within cells.” Furthermore, the microscope “can also produce rapid three-dimensional images of live samples in real time to study cellular processes in action.”
The OMX is based on two main imaging modalities: Structured Illumination and Fast Live 3d Imaging. Here’s the explanation from the project page at UCSF:
1) Structured Illumination
Structured illumination microscopy involves illuminating the sample with a pattern caused by interfering beams of light, rather than a single uniform beam. OMX achieves this illumination by passing incident light through a diffraction grating, then recombining the diffracted beams in the sample plane. The emitted light from a sample so illuminated contains normally unobservable high-resolution information that has been shifted into the observable region of frequency space. By acquiring several images of shifted patterns at each Z section, the high-resolution information can be separated and computationally re-shifted to its correct position in frequency space, leading to an overall increase in the resolution of the final reconstructed image.
2) Fast Live 3d Imaging
Although fixed images are a very useful source of information, live imaging is becoming more and more important. Live imaging allows dynamic processes to be directly observed. There are many challenges in live imaging, including bleaching of fluorophores, imaging through tissues, and keeping the sample alive. Images must be acquired quickly, not only so that the process of interest is accurately sampled, but also so that the individual planes of a three-dimensional picture comprise a single timepoint; i.e., temporal spreading of a single image must be minimized. To meet these challenges OMX was designed with very fast cameras and shutters capable of acquiring 100 images per second, a piezoelectric stage that can move very quickly while images are being acquired, and a digital signal processor (DSP) controlling all aspects of image acquisition to ensure precise timing. OMX can acquire separate wavelengths from 4 cameras simultaneously, allowing multiple signals to be detected. Ratio imaging and FRET can also be performed.
More reads: UC Davis press release: New Microscope Is First of Its Kind…;
Applied Precision press release: The World’s Most Powerful Commercial Wide-Field Light Microscope Installed at the UC Davis Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology…
OMX project pages at UC Davis and UCSF