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Expansion microscopy strategy called Magnify reveals nanoscopic subcellular structures

18 March 2023

Expanding Horizons

Thanks to an innovative approach to imaging known as expansion microscopy, scientists can see ever more clearly inside cells. Rather than trying to improve microscope optics, expansion microscopy uses physical forces to create a closer view: samples are embedded in a hydrogel, which swells with water, enlarging the spaces between molecular structures, and so improving visibility. Further refining this technique, researchers developed a new toolkit, called Magnify, to achieve an 11-fold expansion of tissue while simultaneously labelling multiple different structures. Diving into this kidney tissue (shown) reveals the arrangements of cellular components, like DNA in the nuclei (in magenta) and the cytoskeletal protein ACTN4 (in orange), in extraordinary detail. Compatible with many existing protocols for preparing tissue samples and regular light microscopes, Magnify is designed to make expansion microscopy both more powerful and more accessible, with example applications in brain and lung tissue pointing to a host of potential uses.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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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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