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Celestial Connections
24 April 2014

Celestial Connections

Adopting techniques from astronomers and ophthalmologists [eye experts], biologists have found a novel way to produce sharper microscope images. Like the atmosphere and an eye’s lens, biological samples bend light in peculiar ways, producing information that’s difficult for microscopes to interpret. Astronomers have learnt to overcome such light-bending by shining a laser – known as a guide star – into the atmosphere and measuring the distortion of the returning light. They then use this measurement to tweak the telescope’s mirror to correct the aberrations. Biologists have mimicked this technique by using a fluorescent object, such as a cell body, as a ‘guide star’. And thanks to this novel method, here we can see with remarkable clarity a network of nerve cells deep in the brain of a living zebrafish.

Written by Nick Kennedy

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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