6 – Microscopy

What Is Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) Microscopy & Is It Right For You?

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

TIRF is not as common as other microscopy based techniques due to certain restrictions. We will discuss these restrictions, then analyze why it might be perfect for your experiment.  TIRF relies on an evanescent wave, created through a critical angle of coherent light (i.e. laser) that reaches a refractive index mismatch.  What does it mean in practice?  A high angle laser reflects off the interface of the coverslip and the sample. Although the depth that this wave penetrates is dependent on the wavelength of the light, in practice it is approximately 50-300nm from the coverslip. Therefore, the cell membrane is…

5 Drool Worthy Imaging Advances Of 2020

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

2020 was a difficult year for many, with their own research being interrupted- either by lab shutdowns or recruitment into the race against COVID-19. Despite the challenges, scientists have continued to be creative and have pushed the boundaries of what is possible. These are the techniques and technologies that every microscopist was envious of in 2020. Spatially Resolved Transcriptomics Nature Methods declared that spatially resolved transcriptomics was the 2020 method of the year. These are a  group of methods that combine gene expression with their physical location. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) was originally developed for cells that had been dissociated…

Picking The Right Functional Imaging Probe

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

As biologists, we study the process of life, however, it’s intricacies cannot be captured by a snapshot in time. Generally, the easiest imaging experiments are those where the samples are stained, fixed, and imaged within a few days of procurement, but that too doesn’t capture the dynamic processes common in cells and organisms. Live cell imaging when combined with reporters serves as a powerful tool to provide solid imaging data. Cameleon —one of the first reporters— was developed in 1997 in Roger Tsien’s lab.  Cameleon is a green fluorescent protein (GFP) that undergoes a conformational change in the presence of…

7 Key Image Analysis Terms For New Microscopist

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

As scientists, we need to perform image analysis after we’ve acquired images in the microscope, otherwise, we have just a pretty picture and not data. The vocabulary for image processing and analysis can be a little intimidating to those new to the field. Therefore, in this blog, I’m going to break down 7 terms that are key when post-processing of images. 1. RGB Image Images acquired during microscopy can be grouped into two main categories. Either monochrome (that can be multichannel) or “RGB.” RGB stands for red, green, blue – the primary colors of light. The cameras in our phones…

The 5 Essentials To Successful Spectral Unmixing

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

In an ideal world, we would be able to use fluorophores that don’t have any overlap in emission spectra and autofluorescence wouldn’t obscure your signal. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world and often have to use two closely related dyes – or contend with fluorescent molecules that are innately part of our sample. Fluorescent molecules include chlorophyll, collagen, NADPH, and vitamin A.  One example that I recently encountered was developing a new probe for lipids. The reviewers requested a direct comparison of the new dye to Nile Red in the same sample. Both dyes would localize to the…

The 5 Fundamental Methods For Imaging Nucleic Acids

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

There are 4 major ways to sort cells. The first way can use magnetic beads coupled to antibodies and pass the cells through a magnetic field. The labeled cells will stick, and the unlabeled cells will remain in the supernatant. The second way is to use some sort of mechanical force like a flapper or air stream that separates the target cells from the bulk population. The third way is the recently introduced microfluidics sorter, which uses microfluidics channels to isolate the target cells. The last method, which is the most common––based on Fuwyler’s work––is the electrostatic cell sorter. This…

Designing Microscopy Experiments Related To Infectious Diseases And Antivirals

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

There are 4 major ways to sort cells. The first way can use magnetic beads coupled to antibodies and pass the cells through a magnetic field. The labeled cells will stick, and the unlabeled cells will remain in the supernatant. The second way is to use some sort of mechanical force like a flapper or air stream that separates the target cells from the bulk population. The third way is the recently introduced microfluidics sorter, which uses microfluidics channels to isolate the target cells. The last method, which is the most common––based on Fuwyler’s work––is the electrostatic cell sorter. This…

Optical Tissue Clearing For Pristine Sample Preparation

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

There are 4 major ways to sort cells. The first way can use magnetic beads coupled to antibodies and pass the cells through a magnetic field. The labeled cells will stick, and the unlabeled cells will remain in the supernatant. The second way is to use some sort of mechanical force like a flapper or air stream that separates the target cells from the bulk population. The third way is the recently introduced microfluidics sorter, which uses microfluidics channels to isolate the target cells. The last method, which is the most common––based on Fuwyler’s work––is the electrostatic cell sorter. This…

5-Point Guide To Buying A New Microscope For Your Lab

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

Have you ever noticed how painful it can be to purchase a new microscope? It would be hard to miss – this can be a frustrating process. A lot of scientists and students consider the new microscope hunt quite scary for a variety of reasons. It might be that you’re worried you won’t get the right microscope and that you’ll regret it, or you may find that dealing with salespeople, in general, makes you kind of uncomfortable. But remember, salespeople are just human beings like you and me, and if we can treat them as such, the whole process of…

7 Individual Artifacts In Fluorescence Microscopy And How To Minimize Them

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

There are 7 different common “artifacts” that may be affecting the quality of your imaging. Before digging into the details, let’s begin by defining an artifact: Essentially, it is any error introduced through sample preparation, the equipment or post-processing methods. This is an important concept to grasp because the effects can cause false positives or negatives, and they can physically distort your data. This is, of course, at odds with your mission to obtain reliable quantitative data. So what can you do to stop these artifacts? The problems can range from dirty objectives to bigger issues like light path aberrations.

Use These 5 Techniques for Super Resolution

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

When you need better resolution than what can be achieved using a traditional microscope, it can be very intimidating to figure out which machines will work best for your experiment. Super-resolution imaging methods require software reconstruction after image acquisition. This is because multiple images are required, and they need to be combined. Additionally, the points of light need to be reassigned to their true location. Today, we're going to discuss 5 different super resolution methods their pros and cons. Although Rayleigh Criterion is not broken, these techniques each feature creative ways to get around it.

6 Microscopy Assays To Determine Cell Health and Improve Your Experimental Results

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

When you're performing imaging, always make sure that any phenotype isn't just an artifact of unhealthy cells. If you're doing drug discovery, you want to ensure that the treatment isn't highly toxic to non-target cells. Therefore, it's important to understand the health of the cells.