At its 2013 annual meeting (New Orleans, LA; December 14-17), the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) chose to highlight a discovery, enabled by optics, that answers a century-old question. The discovery centers on how the Golgi organelle of a cell—whose function is to "package" proteins inside the cell before they are sent to their destination—disassembles during cell division. Described by Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Ph.D., and Dylan Burnette, Ph.D., both of the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD; Bethesda, MD), the work was facilitated by spinning-disk confocal microscopy and multispectral imaging. These techniques gave the researchers a high-resolution view, allowing them to see that Golgi tightly links to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the organelle responsible for manufacturing and transporting material (such as proteins) to other locations. The researchers' work has implications in further understanding protein synthesis.
Tools for cell biologists
The exhibit hall housed a number of other technologies for facilitating discovery. GE Healthcare (Piscataway, NJ) demonstrated its Cytell benchtop cell imaging system that combines a digital microscope, imaging cytometer, and cell counter, which promises to run a 96-well multicolor cell viability assay (with full data visualization and report generation, too) in less than 15 minutes. The system features four fluorescence and brightfield channels, delivers high sensitivity with 14 bit dynamic range, and offers the company's BioApps modules to streamline the system's processes and make it accessible to beginners.
Nikon Instruments (Melville, NY) showed its Ti-E high content microscope system, which can perform total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF), confocal, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), photoactivation, and microinjection microscopy techniques to image live cells. A 20X plan achromat objective enables complete aberration correction, and the company's Perfect Focus system uses an 870 nm infrared (IR) light-emitting diode (LED) to detect the focal point without affecting fluorescence observation.
Thorlabs (Newton, NJ) displayed its OTM200 optical tweezers microscope system, which is available with Nikon's Ti-E system or as a standalone module that can couple to any inverted microscope system, making it affordable for smaller research labs. A power- and wavelength-stabilized 1064 nm laser splits into two independently steerable trapping beams with greater than 1 W optical power per beam, each of which can support several time-shared traps. The system can trap live cell nuclei and other organelles for observation, and has been shown to trap live yeast cells in a microfluidic flow channel.