The imaging of cellular events in high resolution is the dream of many life scientists. A European consortium initiated a collective effort to push the current limits of high-resolution imaging techniques for the study of biological systems.
A real-time, highly resolved view of a living cell and its subcellular components under different conditions is the holy grail in life sciences. The recently developed technology of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) has provided amazing structural details on proteins, nucleotides, membranes and cells in their native conditions.
The EU-funded project Tips4cells aimed at the development of innovative imaging technologies based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) for the highly resolved and sensitive study of multiprotein complexes in their native environment.
The currently available methods based on AFM face major technical difficulties and are unable to analyse every sample at atomic resolution. Researchers in the Tips4cells consortium managed to overcome these drawbacks creating imaging technologies based on SPM of even higher resolution. New technologies, such as faster scanning force microscopy (SFM), expanded the imaging capabilities allowing the study of membrane-protein interactions and signalling events in living cells and functional nuclei.
The Tips4cells project successfully accomplished its objectives providing essential improvements and knowledge regarding biological imaging technologies. Furthermore, it pushed out the boundaries of imaging technologies allowing the study of even more complex and larger biological structures. For example, cells and chromosomes were analysed under native conditions at video frames rates.
The significant contribution of Tips4cells in the field was the advance of SPM as a mature imaging and measuring technique for cellular biology. The next goal will be the spread of SPM as a routine imaging technique similar to confocal microscopy in any biomedical laboratory.
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Imaging & Microscopy Issue 4 , 2012 as free epaper or pdf download