Seeing inside the cell


A human hair is somewhere between 60,000 and 120,000 nanometers wide. The new microscope that took this image of a mouse cell can capture 3-D images at a resolution of 30 nanometers.

Other microscopes have achieved higher resolutions, but not without a lot of work. It can take up to two weeks to get this kind of image via electron microscopy, as you take sliver after sliver of the cell and piece the images back together. This system, called X-ray nanotomography, can capture the entire cell in one step.

The smallest of details were visible: the double membrane of the cell nucleus, nuclear pores in the nuclear envelope, membrane channels in the nucleus, numerous invaginations of the inner mitochondrial membrane and inclusions in cell organelles such as lysosomes. Such insights will be crucial for shedding light on inner-cellular processes: such as how viruses or nanoparticles penetrate into cells or into the nucleus, for example.

Submitterated by peltier_cooler


  1. whoa this is an awesome image. being able to see mitochondrial invaginations… in 3D? that’s pretty amazing.

  2. I think the image you embedded is the conventional stained/sliced image… the one above it in the linked article is the X-ray one showing more detail.

    Very neat stuff though!

  3. invaginations

    I feel like I’m in 7th grade, even though I know it was probably freshman biology at college.

  4. Funklord, this method doesn’t require any labelling step, so it’s pretty cool. Though I will have to remember where I put my portable synchrotron…

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