If you're someone who wants to visualize live cells, the proliferation of imaging technology has spawned almost as many live-cell setups as there are experiments that require them. Many options are available: confocal microscopes such as spinning-disk systems, newer modifications including swept scanning and resonance confocal systems, more specialized approaches such as two-photon microscopes or total internal reflection fluorescence techniques, and the numerous live-cell applications in wide-field microscopes. Navigating the options can be frustrating.

"Live-cell imaging is in general a give and take," says Paul Maddox, a microscopist and cell biologist at the University of Toronto. The higher the spatial resolution, the better the information you can obtain; however, higher resolution requires more light, which damages the living tissue.

Each setup has pros...

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