Going Live

How to choose a live-cell imaging microscope setup from the maze of available options

Alla Katsnelson
Nov 1, 2007

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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