A team of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ( KAIST) has developed a holographic microscope that provides powerful 3D imaging of live cells without staining. Because current fluorescence microscopy techniques require exogenous labeling agents (staining) to get high-contrast molecular information, there are drawbacks such as photobleaching, phototoxicity, and interference with normal molecular activities. Therefore, immune or stem cells that need to be reinjected into the body are considered particularly difficult to employ.
KAIST's holotomography (HT)-1 microscope avoids these drawbacks, using various angles of laser illumination coupled with multiple 2D holograms of a cell to reconstruct the 3D refractive index distribution of the cell. The reconstructed 3D refractive index map provides structural and chemical information such as mass, morphology, protein concentration, and dynamics of the cellular membrane. And because it doesn't require staining, sample prep is reduced to a few minutes, says Professor YongKeun Park of the Physics Department at KAIST, who led the development.
HT-1 is being released to the global marketplace through Korean startup TomoCube, which Park co-founded.