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Expansion microscopy of a favourite biological model allows molecule mapping in the intact animal

31 March 2021

Excellent Imagery

Often the more you learn about something, the more questions you have. In science, this deepening desire for detail drives demand for ever-finer microscopy images. A recent approach provides precise imaging of tiny specimens by uniformly swelling tissue samples and visualising the results. However, this technique was unsuitable for viewing C. elegans, the simple worm that's the starting point for countless biological studies into the fundamentals of life, because of its inflexible outer layer. A new approach called ExCel allows expansion of C. elegans (pictured), to provide simultaneous information on the location of DNA (blue), the similar RNA (red), and specific selected proteins of interest made to fluoresce (green). The system has already identified new interactions between cells, and revealed genetic expression in individual neurons simultaneously. This magnified view will help let researchers ask detailed questions about processes that underpin health in not just these worms, but us too.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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