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Spinning-disk microscope offers window into the center of a cell

A new method of imaging cells is allowing scientists to see tiny structures inside the 'control centre' of the cell for the first time.

The microscopic technique, developed by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, represents a major advance for cell biologists as it will allow them to investigate structures deep inside the cell, such as viruses, bacteria and parts of the nucleus in depth.

Recent advances in optical physics have made it possible to use fluorescent microscopy to study complex structures smaller than 200 nanometres (nm) – around 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair. These methodologies are called super-resolution microscopy.

The drawback of such techniques is that they can only produce very clear images of structures that are at the bottom of the cell. Since the nucleus – the cell's 'control centre' – is in the middle of the cell and bacterial and viral infections can happen anywhere in the cell, this technique has considerable limitations for biologists.

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