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Peering into the transit pore

February 10, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

The lipid-rich membranes of cells are largely impermeable to proteins, but evolution has provided a way through—in the form of transmembrane tunnels. A new study in Germany shows in unmatched detail what happens as proteins pass through such a pore.

Optically Inclined

February 6, 2014 2:20 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Ocean Optics | Articles | Comments

Microscopy is growing at a rapid rate as the result of substantial investment in nanotechnology research. Advances in nanotechnology not only support advances in materials technology, they support developments in the semiconductor and medical devices industries. These billions of dollars drive support for advanced microscopy technologies, which are expected to become a $5 to 6 billion market globally by 2018.

Pinpointing the brain’s arbitrator

February 6, 2014 8:30 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

We tend to be creatures of habit. In fact, the human brain has a learning system devoted to guiding us through routine, or habitual, behaviors. At the same time, the brain has a separate goal-directed system for the actions we undertake only after careful consideration of the consequences. We switch between the two systems as needed. But how does the brain know which system to give control to at any given moment? Enter The Arbitrator.

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Capturing ultra-sharp images of multiple cell components at once

February 3, 2014 10:32 am | News | Comments

A new microscopy method could enable scientists to generate snapshots of dozens of different biomolecules at once in a single human cell, a team from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported in Nature Methods. Such images could shed light on complex cellular pathways and potentially lead to new ways to diagnose disease, track its prognosis or monitor the effectiveness of therapies at a cell level.

A detailed look at HIV in action

January 31, 2014 9:45 am | by Katie Neith. California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.

Expanding our view of vision

January 28, 2014 8:24 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every time you open your eyes, visual information flows into your brain, which interprets what you’re seeing. Now, for the first time, Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have noninvasively mapped this flow of information in the human brain with unique accuracy, using a novel brain-scanning technique. 

Facelift complications eased with help of 3-D imaging technique

January 28, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by injecting a gel-like material into their facial tissue. These cosmetic procedures are sometimes called “liquid facelifts” and are said to be minimally invasive. It’s rare, but sometimes things go wrong. In a matter of minutes, patients’ skin can turn red or blotchy white and the injected area becomes painful.

3-D imaging provides window into living cells, no dye required

January 22, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Living cells are ready for their close-ups, thanks to a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, 3-D, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures—all with conventional microscopes and white light.

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Unwanted side effect becomes advantage in photoacoustic imaging

January 15, 2014 9:55 am | News | Comments

Biomedical engineer Lihong Wang and researchers in his laboratory work with lasers used in photoacoustic imaging for early cancer detection and a close look at biological tissue. But sometimes there are limitations to what they can do; and as engineers, they work to find a way around those limitations. The team found a novel way to use an otherwise unwanted side effect of the lasers they use—the photo bleaching effect—to their advantage.

Tweaking MRI to track creatine may spot heart problems earlier

January 13, 2014 10:41 am | News | Comments

A new MRI method to map creatine at higher resolutions in the heart may help clinicians and scientists find abnormalities and disorders earlier than traditional diagnostic methods, researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania suggest in a recent study. The preclinical findings show an advantage over less sensitive tests and point to a safer and more cost-effective approach than those with radioactive or contrasting agents.

Ultrasound directed to human brain can boost sensory performance

January 13, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Whales, bats and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system; and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans. Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have demonstrated that ultrasound directed to a specific region of the brain can boost performance in sensory discrimination. 

Chemical imaging brings cancer tissue analysis into the digital age

January 8, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

A new method for analyzing biological samples' chemical makeup is set to transform the way medical scientists examine diseased tissue. When tests are carried out on a patient’s tissue today, such as to look for cancer, the test has to be interpreted by a histology specialist, and can take weeks to obtain a full result. Mass spectrometry imaging uses technologies that reveal how chemical components are distributed in a tissue sample.

Imaging technology could unlock mysteries of a childhood disease

December 30, 2013 12:29 pm | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

By the time they’re two, most children have had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and suffered symptoms no worse than a bad cold. But for some children, RSV can lead to pneumonia and bronchitis. A new imaging technique for studying the structure of the RSV virion and the activity of RSV in living cells could help researchers unlock the secrets of the virus.

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Kinect-based virtual reality training promotes brain reorganization after stroke

December 27, 2013 1:11 pm | News | Comments

Recently, a study team from the First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen Univ. in China has verified that virtual reality training using the Kinect system from the Xbox 360 could promote the recovery of upper limb motor function in subacute stroke patients, and brain reorganization by Kinect-based virtual reality training may be linked to the contralateral sensorimotor cortex.

Nanoparticle interactions: The hidden ties that bind

December 26, 2013 12:00 pm | News | Comments

Molecules anchored to the surfaces of nanoparticles modify and even control many characteristics of the particles, including how they interact with cells or react to light. Taking advantage of advanced instrumental capabilities, researchers have built a specially designed experimental cell to successfully deduce the how molecules of carboxylic acid, a common organic acid found in nature, bind to ceria nanoparticle surfaces.

Scientists reduce protein crystal damage, improve pharmaceutical development

December 18, 2013 1:47 pm | News | Comments

New recommendations for using x-rays promise to speed investigations aimed at understanding the structure of biologically important proteins. In their study, the scientists evaluated options to remedy problems affecting data collection. Scientists who use x-ray beams to study protein crystals face a dilemma: The beams provide the best tool for understanding a protein's structure and biological function, but they often damage the crystal.

Researchers develop advanced 3-D “force microscope”

December 17, 2013 3:19 pm | News | Comments

Until recently, the microscopic study of complex membrane proteins has been restricted due to limitations of “force microscopes” that are available to researchers and the one-dimensional results these microscopes reveal. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri have built a 3-D microscope that will yield unparalleled information on membrane proteins and how they interact in cells. The innovation could speed up drug development.

Smithsonian, Olympus team up on new science education effort

December 10, 2013 10:47 am | News | Comments

Q?rius (pronounced “Curious”) is a new hub of scientific activity and education based at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. The product of a partnership between Olympus and the Smithsonian, the 10,000-square-foot experiential learning center will be equipped with dozens of microscopes and imaging systems that will enable museum visitors more than 6,000 bones, minerals, and fossils.

New tool assesses the impact of toxic agents in cells

December 10, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

By using optical techniques, researchers in Switzerland are now able to measure the concentration of the oxidizing substances produced by a damaged cell. This new biosensing technique for toxic agents also offers a new way to know more about the mechanisms of oxidative stress.

Study raises questions about longstanding forensic identification technique

December 10, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

Forensic experts have long used the shape of a person’s skull to make positive identifications of human remains. But those findings may now be called into question, since a new study from North Carolina State Univ. shows that there is not enough variation in skull shapes to make a positive identification.

Ultrasound microscopy: Aid for surgeons makes the invisible, visible

December 9, 2013 9:17 am | News | Comments

An ultrasonic microscope emits a high frequency sound at an object, and the reflected sound captured by its lens is converted into a 2-D image of the object under scrutiny. Prof. Naohiro Hozumi in Japan is developing the technology to monitor living tissue and cell specimens for medical purposes.

A leap forward in x-ray technology

December 4, 2013 7:47 am | by David Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

X-rays transformed medicine a century ago by providing a noninvasive way to detect internal structures in the body. Still, they have limitations: X-rays cannot image the body’s soft tissues, except with the use of contrast-enhancing agents that must be swallowed or injected, and their resolution is limited. But a newly developed approach could dramatically change that.

Ultrasound, nanoparticle may help diabetics avoid the needle

November 21, 2013 10:12 am | News | Comments

A new nanotechnology-based technique for regulating blood sugar in diabetics may give patients the ability to release insulin painlessly using a small ultrasound device, allowing them to go days between injections—rather than using needles to give themselves multiple insulin injections each day. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Brain imaging reveals dynamic changes caused by pain medicines

November 20, 2013 8:39 pm | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers are the first to use brain imaging procedures to track the clinical action of pregabalin, a drug known by the brand name Lyrica that is prescribed to patients suffering from fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. The study suggests role of brain imaging in creating personalized treatment of chronic pain.

Seven research universities team for molecular biology

November 8, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

Arizona State University is teaming up with seven other research universities to establish a new Science and Technology Center (STC), sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The center will be based at the University at Buffalo. It is expected to transform the field of structural and dynamic molecular biology, including drug development, by using x-ray lasers to peer into biological molecules. 

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