Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Microscopy


The negatively charged nitrogen vacancy (NV(-)) center in diamond is the focus of widespread attention for applications ranging from quantum information processing to nanoscale metrology. Although most work so far has focused on the NV(-) optical and spin properties, control of the charge state promises complementary opportunities. One intriguing possibility is the long-term storage of information, a notion we hereby introduce using NV-rich, type 1b diamond. As a proof of principle, we use multicolor optical microscopy to read, write, and reset arbitrary data sets with two-dimensional (2D) binary bit density comparable to present digital-video-disk (DVD) technology. Leveraging on the singular dynamics of NV(-) ionization, we encode information on different planes of the diamond crystal with no cross-talk, hence extending the storage capacity to three dimensions. Furthermore, we correlate the center’s charge state and the nuclear spin polarization of the nitrogen host and show that the latter is robust to a cycle of NV(-) ionization and recharge. In combination with super-resolution microscopy techniques, these observations provide a route toward subdiffraction NV charge control, a regime where the storage capacity could exceed present technologies.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Dimension, Microscopy, Spintronics, Computer data storage


The staining of neurons with silver began in the 1800s, but until now the great resolving power of the laser scanning confocal microscope has not been utilized to capture the in-focus and three-dimensional cytoarchitecture of metal-impregnated cells. Here, we demonstrate how spectral confocal microscopy, typically reserved for fluorescent imaging, can be used to visualize metal-labeled tissues. This imaging does not involve the reflectance of metal particles, but rather the excitation of silver (or gold) nanoparticles and their putative surface plasmon resonance. To induce such resonance, silver or gold particles were excited with visible-wavelength laser lines (561 or 640 nm), and the maximal emission signal was collected at a shorter wavelength (i.e., higher energy state). Because the surface plasmon resonances of noble metal nanoparticles offer a superior optical signal and do not photobleach, our novel protocol holds enormous promise of a rebirth and further development of silver- and gold-based cell labeling protocols.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Optics, Microscope, Gold, Surface plasmon resonance, Microscopy, Plasmon, Extraordinary optical transmission


Optical microscopy is one of the most contributive tools for cell biology in the past decades. Many microscopic techniques with various functions have been developed to date, i.e., phase contrast microscopy, differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy, confocal microscopy, two photon microscopy, superresolution microscopy, etc. However, person who is in charge of an experiment has to select one of the several microscopic techniques to achieve an experimental goal, which makes the biological assay time-consuming and expensive. To solve this problem, we have developed a microscopic system with various functions in one instrument based on the optical Fourier transformation with a lens system for detection while focusing on applicability and user-friendliness for biology. The present instrument can arbitrarily modulate the pupil function with a micro mirror array on the Fourier plane of the optical pathway for detection. We named the present instrument DiMPS (Distinct optical Modulated Pupil function System). The DiMPS is compatible with conventional fluorescent probes and illumination equipment, and gives us a Fourier-filtered image, a pseudo-relief image, and a deep focus depth. Furthermore, DiMPS achieved a resolution enhancement (pseudo-superresolution) of 110 nm through the subtraction of two images whose pupil functions are independently modulated. In maximum, the spatial and temporal resolution was improved to 120 nm and 2 ms, respectively. Since the DiMPS is based on relay optics, it can be easily combined with another microscopic instrument such as confocal microscope, and provides a method for multi-color pseudo-superresolution. Thus, the DiMPS shows great promise as a flexible optical microscopy technique in biological research fields.

Concepts: Cell, Biology, Optics, Microscope, Phase, Microscopy, Confocal microscopy, Fourier series


Automated cell imaging systems facilitate fast and reliable analysis of biological events at the cellular level. In these systems, the first step is usually cell segmentation that greatly affects the success of the subsequent system steps. On the other hand, similar to other image segmentation problems, cell segmentation is an ill-posed problem that typically necessitates the use of domain-specific knowledge to obtain successful segmentations even by human subjects. The approaches that can incorporate this knowledge into their segmentation algorithms have potential to greatly improve segmentation results. In this work, we propose a new approach for the effective segmentation of live cells from phase contrast microscopy. This approach introduces a new set of “smart markers” for a marker-controlled watershed algorithm, for which the identification of its markers is critical. The proposed approach relies on using domain-specific knowledge, in the form of visual characteristics of the cells, to define the markers. We evaluate our approach on a total of 1,954 cells. The experimental results demonstrate that this approach, which uses the proposed definition of smart markers, is quite effective in identifying better markers compared to its counterparts. This will, in turn, be effective in improving the segmentation performance of a marker-controlled watershed algorithm.

Concepts: Better, Microscope, Microscopy, Numerical analysis, Image processing, Phase-contrast imaging, Watershed, Segmentation


Guanine-rich oligonucleotides often show a strong tendency to form supramolecular architecture, the so-called G-quadruplex structure. Because of the biological significance, it is now considered to be one of the most important conformations of DNA. Here, we describe the direct visualization and single-molecule analysis of the formation of a tetramolecular G-quadruplex in KCl solution. The conformational changes were carried out by incorporating two duplex DNAs, with G-G mismatch repeats in the middle, inside a DNA origami frame and monitoring the topology change of the strands. In the absence of KCl, incorporated duplexes had no interaction and laid parallel to each other. Addition of KCl induced the formation of a G-quadruplex structure by stably binding the duplexes to each other in the middle. Such a quadruplex formation allowed the DNA synapsis without disturbing the duplex regions of the participating sequences, and resulted in an X-shaped structure that was monitored by atomic force microscopy. Further, the G-quadruplex formation in KCl solution and its disruption in KCl-free buffer were analyzed in real-time. The orientation of the G-quadruplex is often difficult to control and investigate using traditional biochemical methods. However, our method using DNA origami could successfully control the strand orientations, topology and stoichiometry of the G-quadruplex.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Tertiary structure, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, G-quadruplex, Orientation, Microscopy


Imaging temperature fields at the nanoscale is a central challenge in various areas of science and technology. Nanoscopic hotspots, such as those observed in integrated circuits or plasmonic nanostructures, can be used to modify the local properties of matter, govern physical processes, activate chemical reactions and trigger biological mechanisms in living organisms. The development of high-resolution thermometry techniques is essential for understanding local thermal non-equilibrium processes during the operation of numerous nanoscale devices. Here we present a technique to map temperature fields using a scanning thermal microscope. Our method permits the elimination of tip-sample contact-related artefacts, a major hurdle that so far has limited the use of scanning probe microscopy for nanoscale thermometry. We map local Peltier effects at the metal-semiconductor contacts to an indium arsenide nanowire and self-heating of a metal interconnect with 7 mK and sub-10 nm spatial temperature resolution.

Concepts: Biology, Chemical reaction, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Microscopy, Scanning probe microscopy, Photothermal microspectroscopy, Scanning thermal microscopy


Orthogonal polarized spectral (OPS) and sidestream dark field (SDF) imaging video microscope devices were introduced for observation of the microcirculation but, due to technical limitations, have remained as research tools. Recently, a novel handheld microscope based on incident dark field illumination (IDF) has been introduced for clinical use. The Cytocam-IDF imaging device consists of a pen-like probe incorporating IDF illumination with a set of high-resolution lenses projecting images on to a computer controlled image sensor synchronized with very short pulsed illumination light. This study was performed to validate Cytocam-IDF imaging by comparison to SDF imaging in volunteers.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Microscope, Computer graphics, Microscopy, IMAGE, Image processing, Dark field microscopy


Tardigrade research in Japan dates back over 100 years, and to date, 167 species of this ecdysozoan phylum have been reported from the country. Of these species, the Macrobiotus hufelandi complex has been represented only by the nominal taxon of this group, Macrobiotus hufelandi. In this article, a new species of the hufelandi group from Japan, Macrobiotus shonaicus sp. nov., is described using integrative taxonomy. In addition to the detailed morphological and morphometric data, obtained using phase contrast light microscopy (PCM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), we provide DNA sequences of four molecular markers (both nuclear and mitochondrial). The new species belongs to the persimilis subgroup and is most similar to M. anemone from USA, M. naskreckii from Mozambique, and M. patagonicus from Argentina, but it can be easily distinguished from these species by the presence of thin flexible filaments on terminal discs of the egg process. By the latter character, the new species is most similar to M. paulinae and M. polypiformis, but it can be easily distinguished from them by having a solid egg surface between egg processes (i.e., without pores or reticulum). A phylogenetic analysis of available DNA sequences of the COI marker for the hufelandi group revealed that the new species clusters with the two other species that exhibit filaments on egg process discs (M. paulinae and M. polypiformis) and with two species that have entire egg processes modified into filaments (M. kristenseni and M. scoticus). All five species form a clade distinct from all other sequenced species of the hufelandi group with typical mushroom- or inverted goblet-shaped egg processes, which may suggest that the ancestor of the five species with atypical egg processes had a mutation allowing derivations from the mushroom or inverted chalice-like shape of egg processes.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Biology, Species, Arthropod, Cladistics, Microscopy, Scanning electron microscope


The purpose of this study was to observe in vitro matured equine oocytes with an objective computerized technique which involve the use of a polarized light microscope (PLM) in addition to the subjective morphological evaluation obtained using a classic light microscope (LM). Equine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs, n=922) were subjected to different in vitro maturation times (24, 36, or 45 h), but only 36-h matured oocytes were analyzed using PLM. The 36-h matured oocytes that reached maturity were parthenogenetically activated to evaluate quality and meiotic competence. Average maturation percentages per session in groups 1, 2, and 3 (24-, 36- and 45-h matured oocytes, respectively) were 29.31±13.85%, 47.01±9.90%, and 36.62±5.28%, whereas the average percentages of immature oocytes per session were 28.78±20.17%, 7.83±5.51%, and 22.36±8.39%, respectively. The zona pellucida (ZP) birefringent properties were estimated and correlated with activation outcome. ZP thickness and retardance of the inner layer of the zona pellucida (IL-ZP) were significantly increased in immature oocytes compared with mature oocytes (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The comparison between parthenogenetically activated and non-activated oocytes showed a significant increase in the area and thickness of the IL-ZP in parthenogenetically activated oocytes (p<0.01). These results show that the 36-h IVM protocol allowed equine oocytes to reach maturity, and PLM observation of ZP can be used to distinguish mature and immature oocytes as well as activated and non-activated oocytes.

Concepts: Optics, Microscope, Meiosis, Microscopy, Zona pellucida, Polarization, Birefringence, Oocyte


To date, much effort has been expended on making high-performance microscopes through better instrumentation. Recently, it was discovered that physical magnification of specimens was possible, through a technique called expansion microscopy (ExM), raising the question of whether physical magnification, coupled to inexpensive optics, could together match the performance of high-end optical equipment, at a tiny fraction of the price. Here we show that such “hybrid microscopy” methods-combining physical and optical magnifications-can indeed achieve high performance at low cost. By physically magnifying objects, then imaging them on cheap miniature fluorescence microscopes (“mini-microscopes”), it is possible to image at a resolution comparable to that previously attainable only with benchtop microscopes that present costs orders of magnitude higher. We believe that this unprecedented hybrid technology that combines expansion microscopy, based on physical magnification, and mini-microscopy, relying on conventional optics-a process we refer to as Expansion Mini-Microscopy (ExMM)-is a highly promising alternative method for performing cost-effective, high-resolution imaging of biological samples. With further advancement of the technology, we believe that ExMM will find widespread applications for high-resolution imaging particularly in research and healthcare scenarios in undeveloped countries or remote places.

Concepts: Biology, Optics, Costs, Microscope, Magnification, Cost, Microscopy, Lens