HIGH-SPEED IMAGING/ADVANCED MICROSCOPY/OPTOGENETICS: The technology behind the science: Exhibits deliver at Neuroscience 2011

As ever, it was difficult to find technology in the conference program at the Society for Neuroscience's 2011 annual meeting (November 12–16, 2011). The presentations focused on science—though in many cases, that science depended on instrumentation. But technology watchers had only to wander downstairs to find an exhibit hall full of helpful offerings—including Mad City Labs' Nano-Cyte LC, which aims to solve critical problems related to temperature gradient and microscope drift that most scientists probably don't even know they have. The platform-independent system integrates high-precision motion control with automated active stabilization software to provide long-term stability within the nanometer regime for live-cell and single-molecule imaging.

That wasn't the only interesting development featured at Neuroscience: Two other exhibitors announced corporate news demonstrating the utility of correlative microscopy—that is, the integration of light microscopy with electron- or ion beam-based microscopy. The combination of the technologies was the cornerstone of event messaging from industry's only developer of both of these types of systems: Carl Zeiss Microscopy is the name of the new company that has resulted from the merger of Carl Zeiss Micro-Imaging (which had focused on light microscopy) with Carl Zeiss NTS (that is, nanotechnology systems, which focused on electron and charged-particle microscopy). During a press conference, Zeiss executives noted that they made the move after considering the impact of work by innovative customers. Approximately one hour later—as if on cue to support Zeiss's strategy—electron and ion-beam microscope developer FEI Company weighed in by announcing its acquisition of TILL Photonics from Toptica.

More microscopy
Other microscopy developers touted other types of developments. For instance, Leica Microsystems showcased the next-generated stimulated emission depletion (gated- or g-STED) super-resolution technique, which it recently licensed from the Max Planck Society and the German Cancer Research Center. The new technology significantly improves resolution and contrast for continuous-wave STED, while distinctly reducing laser intensity—in order to increase photostability and live-cell capability and thus expand the range of possible applications.

Leica Microsystems will provide next-generation g-STED in a commercial system that promises to improve resolution and contrast for continuous-wave STED while reducing laser intensity
Leica Microsystems will provide next-generation g-STED (gated stimulated emission depletion), licensed from the Max Planck Society and the German Cancer Research Center, in a commercial system that promises to improve resolution and contrast for continuous-wave STED while reducing laser intensity.

And Nikon, with its Ti-E PFS "Perfect Focus" inverted system, not only provides access to TIRF, confocal, FRET, photoactivation, and microinjection, but also leverages its exclusive deal with Agilent by incorporating the MLC400 monolithic laser combiner. The result is a sort-of "set it and forget it" approach that promises to save researchers the distraction of continual optics adjustment.

Thorlabs, meanwhile, showcased multiphoton microscopy by way of its B-Scope (which provides more than 10 inches of coarse travel in the Z-axis, allowing room for experimental apparatus coupled to animals being studied) and a demo of two-photon microscopy with adaptive optics, among other displays.

Other innovations
The event also showcased the first-ever (to my knowledge) commercial optogenetics system. Spectralynx, offered by Neuralynx (Bozeman, MT), was designed by Alex Cadotte, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer who used optogenetics for his neuroscience research in Pediatric Neurology at the University of Florida. Cadotte says that because no turnkey option existed, the learning curve for doing optogenetics was steep and time-consuming. The new offering aims to facilitate "a turnkey, out-of-the-box experience with optogenetic hardware and software" at a lower price than multiple-laser systems.

Meanwhile, QImaging demonstrated its new sCMOS camera, Rolera Bolt, which it says sells for half the cost of other sCMOS cameras on the market. And Photometrics showcased an innovation developed by two researchers to use a single Evolve 128 EMCCD camera to measure three parameters simultaneously—an outcome made possible by the camera’s speed (~1000 fps at 64 × 64 pixel resolution) and smooth signal dynamics, with interpolation.

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