New method provides 3D images of cell chemistry
Tübingen and Swiss researchers combine tomography and infrared microscopy to make 3D snapshots of cell samples
A German-Swiss team of researchers has been able to take a clear picture of the parts of the cell at the molecular level and to portray them three-dimensionally using a conventional benchtop infrared microscope. Previously, expensive or complex experiments were required to discover in what part of the cell various chemical compounds were located.
The team of researchers from Tübingen, Zurich and Fribourg has developed a relatively cheap method for use in biological and pharmacological research. Tübingen geoscientists Dr. Martin Obst and Professor Marcus, working with Dr. Luca Quaroni and Professor Fabio Zobi of the Université de Fribourg, combined computer tomography with a state-of-the-art infrared microscope fitted with an imaging detector. By taking 38 spectromicroscopic projections of the cell samples from different angles, they were able to reconstruct the cells’ chemical composition in three dimensions – without having to stain the samples or alter them in any way, as researchers must do if working solely in the light spectrum visible to humans.
The researchers were also able to make visible the distribution of a metal carbonyl complex – a model substance in a class of new pharmaceutical agents – within a single onion cell, and to measure the concentration of it in the nucleus.
The geoscientists aim to take the method beyond its applications in biochemistry and into environmental studies and volcanology. For example, Martin Obst is investigating how metals in waste water from mines accumulate in biofilms – layers of microorganisms which grow almost anywhere where water flows out of mines. And Marcus Nowak is investigating the spatial distribution of water and carbon dioxide dissolved in various volcanic glasses in order to obtain new insights into the degasification processes during eruptions.
Quaroni L., Obst M., Nowak M., Zobi F.: Three-Dimensional Mid-Infrared Tomographic Imaging of Endogenous and Exogenous Molecules in a Single Intact Cell with Subcellular Resolution. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Online-Vorabveröffentlichung am 13. November 2014, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201407728
Dr. Martin Obst
University of Tübingen
Geoscience - AG Umweltanalytische Mikroskopie
Phone: +49 7071 29-74701