Modified microscope allows for high-speed, high-res imaging of live neurons

Researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and Kanazawa University (Japan) have imaged structural dynamics of living neurons with unprecedented spatial resolution and speed by using a modified atomic force microscope (AFM).
The AFM is a leading tool for imaging, measuring, and manipulating materials with atomic resolution, on the order of fractions of a nanometer,by scanning (“touching” and “feeling”) its surface with an extremely fine needle (the diameter of the tip is about 5 nanometers) on the surface. However, it can’t be used with neurons and other living cells without damaging the sample, and it’s too slow (it takes many minutes to acquire an image).
The new device images without any sign of cellular damage, it’s optimized for fast scanning (seconds per image) to capture dynamic events in living cells, and has a spatial resolution up to 100 times better than a standard light microscope.
In particular, this study demonstrates the capability to track structural dynamics and remodeling of the cell surface, such as morphogenesis (how the form is created) of filopodia, membrane ruffles, pit formation, or endocytosis in response to environmental stimulants.