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Capturing Life in Motion

Los Alamos scientists developed-and are now improving-a 3D-tracking microscope that can follow the movements of a nanometer-sized particle inside a living cell.
March 1, 2018
A microscopic image of a mouse's intestine, color-coded green and blue.

The components of living cells often have complex, even variable shapes that are critical to their functions. This image of a mouse's intestine shows deep invaginations and uneven surfaces that are difficult to discern with many microscopy techniques.

Understanding how, when, and why individual proteins interact in living cells is critical to understanding and predicting cell response.

Most methods of visualizing organs or cells produce only one- or two-dimensional still images, but scientists who want to truly understand how cells move and function need more information. It’s like the difference between just looking at an assembled car engine and actually watching the engine run. Using a Los Alamos-developed 3D-tracking microscope, scientists are able to glean valuable spatial information about the molecular interactions of particles such as proteins. Through this study, they can develop a better understanding of the overall function of these particles, leading to potential medical advancements.