In 2007, MIT scientists developed a type of microscopy that allowed them to detail the interior of a living cell in three dimensions, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density.
Now the researchers have adapted that method so they can image cells as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel — an important step toward cell-sorting systems that could help scientists separate stem cells at varying stages of development, or to distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells.
A key feature of the new MIT system is the use of a focused laser beam that can illuminate cells from many different angles, allowing the researchers to analyze the scattered light from the cells as they flow across the beam. Using a technique known as off-axis digital holography, the researchers can instantaneously record both the amplitude and phase of scattered light at each location of the cells.
“As the cell flows across, we can effectively illuminate the entire sample from all angles without having to rotate a light source or the cell,” says former MIT graduate student Niyom Lue, a coauthor of the new paper.
Read the article on MIT news.