Highly accurate light sensors are providing scientists with a new method of looking into cells in three dimensions without having to cut them open.
Scientists at the Institute for Soft Matter and Functional Materials - also known as the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin due to its participation in the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres - have developed a technique that uses partly coherent light to illuminate fine details in the cell.
Compared with incoherent illumination, this leads to a much higher contrast ratio being picked up by the light sensors focused on the cell.
Details that can be seen include membrane channels in the nucleus, its double outer membrane, nuclear pores in the surrounding envelope and characteristics of the inner mitochondrial membrane.
The team hopes the technique will ultimately mean processes such as viral invasion and nanoparticle penetration into cell interiors can be studied without chemical dyes or the need to cut into cells to see inside them.