Courtesy of QuantomiX
The ultrahigh resolution of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) makes it a powerful tool for examining microstructures. But while SEM is a great way to study the surface of a crystal or a silicon chip, its application to the life sciences has lagged far behind its usefulness in materials science and crystallography.
SEM samples must generally be imaged in a vacuum, which is not a friendly place for cells. Moreover, traditional methods of preparing wet samples for the vacuum chamber, such as chemically controlled drying and cryopreparation, can alter or destroy features of biological tissue.
Rehovot, Israel-based QuantomiX
According to a recent paper,1 wet SEM imaging with the QX capsule yields resolutions of between 10 and 100 nm. Interactions between the wet medium and the electron beam make the resolution of images slightly lower than in dry SEM, but it is still orders of magnitude greater than in light microscopy.
QuantomiX originally developed the capsule as a way to make SEM imaging more convenient for life scientists, says Ory Zik, QuantomiX CEO. "We found out as we made progress that there are lots of applications in the medical area," Zik says, adding that the technique has many applications for materials sciences as well.
Barbara Corkey, director of the Obesity Research Center at the Boston Medical Center of Boston University, is enthusiastic about the possibilities the QX capsule may open up for lipids research. According to Corkey, who is on QuantomiX's Scientific Advisory Board, the device has allowed her lab to look at fat storage within cells at extremely fine resolutions. This is an impossible task with dry SEM, because dry sample preparation methods destroy fats. "It's easy, and therefore accessible to people," she says. "It encourages people to think creatively about things that they'd like to do that might have been hard to do, or inaccessible to them, before."
- Lissa Harris