Observe living cells with 7 times the sensitivity thanks to the new microscopy technique


PICTURE: Researchers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to improve the sensitivity of existing quantitative phase imaging so that all structures inside living cells can be seen simultaneously, … more

Credit: s-graphics.co.jp, CC BY-NC-ND

Experts in optical physics have developed a new way to see the insides of living cells in greater detail using existing microscopy technology and without the need to add dyes or fluorescent dyes.

Since individual cells are almost translucent, microscope cameras must detect extremely subtle differences in the light passing through parts of the cell. These differences are known as the phase of light. The camera image sensors are limited by the amount of light phase difference they can detect, called dynamic range.

“To see more detail using the same image sensor, we need to expand the dynamic range so that we can detect smaller phase changes in light,” said Associate Professor Takuro Ideguchi of the Institute of Science and photonics technology from the University of Tokyo.

The research team developed a technique to take two exposures to measure large and small light phase changes separately, then connect them seamlessly to create a final, highly detailed image. They named their Adaptive Dynamic Range Shift Quantitative Phase Imaging (ADRIFT-QPI) method and recently published their results in Light: science and applications.

“Our ADRIFT-QPI method does not require any special laser, microscope or special image sensor; we can use living cells, we do not need any staining or fluorescence, and there is very little risk of phototoxicity. “said Ideguchi.

Phototoxicity refers to the destruction of cells by light, which can become a problem with certain other imaging techniques, such as fluorescence imaging.

Quantitative phase imaging sends a pulse from a flat sheet of light to the cell, then measures the phase shift of the light waves after they pass through the cell. Computer analysis then reconstructs an image of the main structures inside the cell. Ideguchi and his colleagues have already developed other methods to improve quantitative phase microscopy.

Quantitative phase imaging is a powerful tool for examining individual cells, as it allows researchers to perform detailed measurements, such as tracking a cell’s growth rate as a function of the change in light waves. However, the quantitative aspect of the technique has low sensitivity due to the low saturation capacity of the image sensor, so tracking nanoscale particles in and around cells is not possible with a conventional approach.

The new ADRIFT-QPI method has overcome the limitation of the dynamic range of quantitative phase imaging. During ADRIFT-QPI, the camera takes two exposures and produces a final image that has a sensitivity seven times greater than traditional quantitative phase microscopy images.

The first exposure is produced with conventional quantitative phase imaging – a flat sheet of light is pulsed towards the sample and the phase shifts of the light are measured after it has passed through the sample. A computer image analysis program develops an image of the sample based on the first exposure, then quickly designs a sculpted wavefront of light that reflects that image of the sample. A separate component called a wavefront shaping device then generates this “light sculpture” with higher intensity light for stronger illumination and pulses it back to the sample for a second exposure.

If the first exposure produced an image that was a perfect representation of the sample, the custom-sculpted light waves from the second exposure would enter the sample at different phases, pass through the sample, and then emerge as a flat sheet of light, causing the camera to see nothing but a dark image.

“This is the interesting thing: we kind of erase the sample image. We hardly want to see anything. We undo the big structures so that we can see the smaller ones in detail,” Ideguchi explained.

In reality, the first exposure is imperfect, so the sculpted light waves emerge with subtle phase shifts.

The second exposure reveals tiny differences in the phase of light that were “eliminated” by larger differences in the first exposure. These tiny remaining light phase differences can be measured with increased sensitivity due to the stronger lighting used in the second exposure.

Further computer analysis reconstructs a final sample image with extended dynamic range from the two measurement results. In proof-of-concept demonstrations, researchers estimate that ADRIFT-QPI produces images with a sensitivity seven times greater than conventional quantitative phase imaging.

Ideguchi says the real benefit of ADRIFT-QPI is its ability to see tiny particles in the context of the entire living cell without the need for labels or spots.

“For example, small signals from nanoscale particles like viruses or particles moving inside and outside a cell could be detected, allowing simultaneous observation of their behavior and condition. of the cell, ”Ideguchi said.


research article

K. Toda, M. Tamamitsu, T. Ideguchi. November 2020. Adaptive Dynamic Range Shift Quantitative Phase Imaging (ADRIFT). Light: science and applications. DOI: 10.1038 / s41377-020-00435-z https: //do I.org /ten.1038 /s41377-020-00435-z

Related links

Ideguchi Group: https: //takuroideguchi.jimdo.com /

Graduate School of Sciences: https: //www.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp /Fr /index.html

Twitter: https: //Twitter.com /IdeguchiTakuro

Contact research

Associate Professor Takuro Ideguchi

Institute for Photon Science and Technology, University of Tokyo Tel: + 81- (0) 3-5841-1026

Email: ideguchi@ipst.su-tokyo.ac.jp

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Ms. Kanako Takeda

Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 133-8654, JAPAN

Phone: 03-5841-0654

Email: kouhou.s@gs.mail.u-tokyo.ac.jp

About the University of Tokyo

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