The researchers subsequently installed microscopes to capture 3D images of cells in real time

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There is a limit to what you can learn about cells from 2D images, but creation 3D images is a time-intensive process. Now, scientists from UT Southwest to have developed a new “simple and cost-effective” device capable of taking photos from multiple angles that can be retrofitted into existing laboratory microscopes. The team says their solution – which involves inserting a unit of two rotating mirrors in front of a microscope camera – is a hundred times faster than converting images from 2D to 3D.

Currently, this process involves collecting hundreds of sample photos that can be sent as a series of images to a graphics software program, which then performs calculations to provide multiple viewing perspectives. Even with a powerful computer, those two steps can take time. But using their optical drive, the team found that they could completely bypass that method.

Moreover, they claim that their access is even faster because it requires only one camera exposure instead of the hundreds of camera frames used for a whole range of 3D images. They discovered the technique while removing images from two common light-plate microscopes. Experimenting with their optical method, they realized that when an incorrect amount of de-skeves is used, the projected image seems to rotate.

“This was aha! Wait a minute,” said Reto Fiolka, an assistant professor in the Bioinformatics Department at Lyda Hill at UT Southwestern. “We realized that this could be bigger than a mere method of optical hair removal; that the system could work for other types of microscopes as well.”

Using their modified microscope, the team recorded calcium ions that transmit signals between nerve cells in a culture vessel and looked at the vascular system of a zebra embryo. They also quickly photographed cancer cells in motion and beat the heart of a zebra. They also applied the optical unit to additional microscopes, including light foil and confocal microscopy with a rotating disk.

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