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New microscope technology enables imaging of live cells

New microscope technology from Ionscope enables imaging of live cells. Ionscope

A microscope that allows detail as small as individual protein molecules on the surface of living cells to be seen for the first time has been developed using BBSRC funding.

The new type of microscope, called a scanning ion conductance microscope (SICM), has been developed by Professor Yuri Korchev at Imperial College London and Professor David Klenerman at the University of Cambridge. It can produce 3D images of the surface of live cells showing 50 times more detail than can be seen with a conventional microscope, without damaging the cells, and has so far been used to look at neurons, heart muscle, kidney, sperm and stem cells.

Data breakout

35 Number of SCIM units sold to researchers worldwide
 
50x Number of times more detail that can be seen with the SICM compared to a standard microscope

Four three-year BBSRC responsive mode grants, jointly awarded to Korchev and Klenerman at the University of Cambridge in the early 2000s, provided the majority of the funding needed to develop the SICM device. It is unique because it can observe living processes as they happen, on a scale smaller than a thousandth of a millimetre - previously impossible.

In 2004, Korchev and Klenerman formed Ionscope in response to an influx of requests from researchers for their microscopes. The company now employs five full-time staff and sells its products internationally.

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