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Concept: Transmission electron microscopy


Carbonate concretions are known to contain well-preserved fossils and soft tissues. Recently, biomolecules (e.g. cholesterol) and molecular fossils (biomarkers) were also discovered in a 380 million-year-old concretion, revealing their importance in exceptional preservation of biosignatures. Here, we used a range of microanalytical techniques, biomarkers and compound specific isotope analyses to report the presence of red and white blood cell-like structures as well as platelet-like structures, collagen and cholesterol in an ichthyosaur bone encapsulated in a carbonate concretion from the Early Jurassic (~182.7 Ma). The red blood cell-like structures are four to five times smaller than those identified in modern organisms. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis revealed that the red blood cell-like structures are organic in composition. We propose that the small size of the blood cell-like structures results from an evolutionary adaptation to the prolonged low oxygen atmospheric levels prevailing during the 70 Ma when ichthyosaurs thrived. The δ(13)C of the ichthyosaur bone cholesterol indicates that it largely derives from a higher level in the food chain and is consistent with a fish and cephalopod diet. The combined findings above demonstrate that carbonate concretions create isolated environments that promote exceptional preservation of fragile tissues and biomolecules.

Concepts: Electron, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Evolution, Transmission electron microscopy, Fossil, Jurassic, Ichthyosaur


The aim of this study was to develop an immediate-release pellet formulation with improved drug dissolution and adsorption. Carbamazepine, a poorly water-soluble drug, was adsorbed into mesoporous silica (SBA-15-CBZ) via a wetness impregnation method and then processed by extrusion/spheronization into pellets. Physicochemical characterization of the preparation was carried out by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, nitrogen adsorption, small-angle and wide-angle x-ray diffraction, and differential scanning calorimetry. Flowability and wettability of the drug-loaded silica powder were evaluated by bulk and tapped density and by the angle of repose and contact angle, respectively. The drug-loaded silica powder was formulated into pellets to improve flowability.

Concepts: Electron, X-ray, Adsorption, Wetting, Materials science, Scientific techniques, Transmission electron microscopy, Scanning electron microscope


Biological materials with hierarchically laminated structures usually exhibit a good synergy between strength and fracture toughness. Here, we show that a bio-inspired (polyelectrolyte (PE)/TiO2)4 nanolayered composite with a thickness ratio of TiO2 and amorphous PE layers of about 1.1 has been prepared successfully on Si substrates by layer-by-layer self-assembly and chemical bath deposition methods. Microstructures of the nanolayered composite were investigated by scanning electron microscopy, secondary ion mass spectroscopy, and high-resolution transmission microscopy. Mechanical performance of the composite was characterized by instrumented indentation. The composite consisting of 17.9-nm-thick nanocrystalline TiO2 and 16.4-nm-thick amorphous PE layers has a strength of about 245 MPa, which is close to that of shells, while the fracture toughness of the composite, KIC = 1.62 +/- 0.30 MPa . m1/2, is evidently higher than that of the bulk TiO2. A possible strategy to build the composite at nanoscale for high mechanical performance was addressed.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Fracture mechanics, Materials science, Transmission electron microscopy, Scanning electron microscope, Secondary ion mass spectrometry, Fracture toughness


Sporadic mass mortality events of Mediterranean sponges following periods of anomalously high temperatures or longer than usual stratification of the seawater column (i.e. low food availability) suggest that these animals are sensitive to environmental stresses. The Mediterranean sponges Ircinia fasciculata and I. oros harbor distinct, species-specific bacterial communities that are highly stable over time and space but little is known about how anomalous environmental conditions affect the structure of the resident bacterial communities. Here, we monitored the bacterial communities in I. fasciculata (largely affected by mass mortalities) and I. oros (overall unaffected) maintained in aquaria during 3 weeks under 4 treatments that mimicked realistic stress pressures: control conditions (13°C, unfiltered seawater), low food availability (13°C, 0.1 µm-filtered seawater), elevated temperatures (25°C, unfiltered seawater), and a combination of the 2 stressors (25°C, 0.1 µm-filtered seawater). Bacterial community structure was assessed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). As I. fasciculata harbors cyanobacteria, we also measured chlorophyll a (chl a) levels in this species. Multivariate analysis revealed no significant differences in bacterial T-RFLP profiles among treatments for either host sponge species, indicating no effect of high temperatures and food shortage on symbiont community structure. In I. fasciculata, chl a content did not significantly differ among treatments although TEM micrographs revealed some cyanobacteria cells undergoing degradation when exposed to both elevated temperature and food shortage conditions. Arguably, longer-term treatments (months) could have eventually affected bacterial community structure. However, we evidenced no appreciable decay of the symbiotic community in response to medium-term (3 weeks) environmental anomalies purported to cause the recurrent sponge mortality episodes. Thus, changes in symbiont structure are not likely the proximate cause for these reported mortality events.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Ribosomal RNA, Plant, 16S ribosomal RNA, Transmission electron microscopy, Restriction fragment length polymorphism, Sponge


In the present study, novel ultradeformable liposomes (menthosomes; MTS), deformable liposomes (transfersomes; TFS) and conventional liposomes (CLP) were compared in their potential for transdermal delivery of meloxicam (MX). MTS, TFS and CLP were investigated for size, size distribution, zeta potential, elasticity, entrapment efficiency and stability. In vitro skin permeation using hairless mice skin was evaluated. Vesicular morphology was observed under freeze-fractured transmission electron microscopy (FF-TEM). Intrinsic thermal properties were performed using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and X-ray diffraction. The skin permeation mechanism was characterized using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). The results indicated that the difference in physicochemical characteristics of MTS, TFS and CLP affected the skin permeability. MTS and TFS showed higher flux of MX than CLP. CLSM image showed deformable vesicles mechanism for delivery of MX across the hairless mice skin. Our study suggested that ultradeformable and deformable liposomes (MTS and TFS) had a potential to use as transdermal drug delivery carriers for MX.

Concepts: Electron, Diffraction, X-ray, Transdermal patch, X-ray crystallography, Differential scanning calorimetry, Scientific techniques, Transmission electron microscopy


Several metal surfaces, such as titanium, aluminum and copper, were exposed to high fluxes (in the range of 10(23) m(-2)s(-1)) of low energy (<100 eV) Helium (He) ions. The surfaces were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy and to get a better understanding on morphology changes both top view and cross sectional images were taken. Different surface modifications, such as voids and nano pillars, are observed on these metals. The differences and similarities in the development of surface morphologies are discussed in terms of the material properties and compared with the results of similar experimental studies. The results show that He ions induced void growth and physical sputtering play a significant role in surface modification using high fluxes of low energy He ions.

Concepts: Electron, Aluminium, Metal, Difference, Materials science, Transmission electron microscopy, Thermal conductivity, Scanning electron microscope


Y-shaped ZnO nanobelts are fabricated by a simple thermal evaporation method. Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) investigation shows that these ZnO nanobelts are crystals with twinned planes {11-21}. Convergent Beam Electron Diffraction studies show that the two sides of twinned nanobelts are O-terminated towards the twinned boundary and Zn-terminated outwards. The two branches of twinned ZnO nanobelts grow along [11-26] from the trunk and then turn to the polarization direction [0001]. The featured Y-shape morphology and TEM characterizations indicate that the growth of these novel nanostructures is driven by an unusual twinned dislocation growth mechanism.

Concepts: Electron, Crystal structure, Fundamental physics concepts, Electromagnetic radiation, Transmission electron microscopy, Scanning electron microscope, Crystallographic defect, Electron diffraction


Ternary blends of poly(lactic acid) (PLA), poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) and poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) with a constant weight percentage of 60%, 10% and 30% respectively were compatibilized with soybean oil derivatives epoxidized soybean oil (ESO), maleinized soybean oil (MSO) and acrylated epoxidized soybean oil (AESO). The potential compatibilization effects of the soybean oil-derivatives was characterized in terms of mechanical, thermal and thermomechanical properties. The effects on morphology were studied by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM). All three soybean oil-based compatibilizers led to a noticeable increase in toughness with a remarkable improvement in elongation at break. On the other hand, both the tensile modulus and strength decreased, but in a lower extent to a typical plasticization effect. Although phase separation occurred, all three soybean oil derivatives led somewhat to compatibilization through reaction between terminal hydroxyl groups in all three biopolyesters (PLA, PHB and PCL) and the readily reactive groups in the soybean oil derivatives, that is, epoxy, maleic anhydride and acrylic/epoxy functionalities. In particular, the addition of 5 parts per hundred parts of the blend (phr) of ESO gave the maximum elongation at break while the same amount of MSO and AESO gave the maximum toughness, measured through Charpy’s impact tests. In general, the herein-developed materials widen the potential of ternary PLA formulations by a cost effective blending method with PHB and PCL and compatibilization with vegetable oil-based additives.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Effect, Effectiveness, Tensile strength, Transmission electron microscopy, Scanning electron microscope, Charpy impact test


Abnormal accumulation of brain metals is a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Formation of amyloid-β plaque cores (APC) is related to interactions with biometals, especially Fe, Cu and Zn, but their particular structural associations and roles remain unclear. Using an integrative set of advanced transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques, including spherical aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (Cs-STEM), nano-beam electron diffraction, electron holography and analytical spectroscopy techniques (EDX and EELS), we demonstrate that Fe in APC is present as iron oxide (Fe3O4) magnetite nanoparticles. Here we show that Fe was accumulated primarily as nanostructured particles within APC, whereas Cu and Zn were distributed through the amyloid fibers. Remarkably, these highly organized crystalline magnetite nanostructures directly bound into fibrillar Aβ showed characteristic superparamagnetic responses with saturated magnetization with circular contours, as observed for the first time by off-axis electron holography of nanometer scale particles.

Concepts: Electron, Iron, Magnetism, Aluminium, Transmission electron microscopy, Iron ore, Magnetite, Hematite


Direct imaging becomes important when the knowledge at few/single molecule level is requested and where the diffraction doesn’t allow to get structural and functional information. Here we report on the direct imaging of double strand (ds) λ-DNA in the A conformation, obtained by combining a novel sample preparation method based on super hydrophobic DNA molecules self aggregation process with Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). The experimental breakthrough is the production of robust and highly ordered paired DNA nanofibers that allowed its direct TEM imaging and the double helix structure revealing.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Gene, Molecule, Transmission electron microscopy, Double helix, Helix, The Double Helix