Novel imaging technique captures beauty of metal-labeled neurons in 3-D

December 15, 2015

Researchers have discovered a dazzling new method of visualizing neurons that promises to benefit neuroscientists and cell biologists alike: by using spectral confocal microscopy to image tissues impregnated with silver or gold.

Rather than relying on the amount of light reflecting off metal particles, this novel process, to be presented in the journal eLife, involves delivering light energy to silver or gold nanoparticles deposited on neurons and imaging the higher energy levels resulting from their vibrations, known as surface plasmons.

This technique is particularly effective as the light emitted from metal particles is resistant to fading, meaning that decades-old tissue samples achieved through other processes, such as the Golgi stain method from the late 1880s, can be imaged repeatedly.

The new process was achieved by using spectral detection on a Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope (LSCM), first made available in the late 1980s and, until now, used most extensively for fluorescent imaging.

Paired with such methods, silver- and gold-based cell labeling is poised to unlock new information in a myriad of archived specimens. Furthermore, silver-impregnated preparations should retain their high image quality for a century or more, allowing for archivability that could aid in clinical research and disease-related diagnostic techniques for cancer and neurological disorders.

"For the purposes of medical diagnostics, older and newer specimens could be compared with the knowledge that signal intensity would remain fairly uniform regardless of sample age or repeated light exposure," says contributing author Karen Mesce from the University of Minnesota.

"With the prediction that superior resolution microscopic techniques will continue to evolve, older archived samples could be reimagined with newer technologies and with the confidence that the signal in question was preserved. The progression or stability of a cancer or other disease could therefore be charted with accuracy over long periods of time."

To appreciate the enhanced image quality produced by the new technique, the team first examined a conventional brightfield image of a metal-labelled neuron within a grasshopper's abdominal ganglion, a type of mini-brain which, even at that size, presented out-of-focus structures.

They then imaged the same ganglion with the spectral LSCM adjusted to the manufacturer's traditional fluorescence settings, resulting only in strong natural fluorescence and a collective dark blur in place of the silver-labelled neurons.

However, after collecting the light energy emitted from vibrating surface plasmons in the spectral LSCM, the team obtained spectacular three-dimensional computer images of silver and gold-impregnated neurons. This holds enormous potential for stimulating a re-examination of archived preparations, including Golgi-stained and cobalt/silver-labelled nervous systems.

Additionally, by using a number of different metal-based cell-labeling techniques in combination with the new LSCM protocols, tissue and cell specimens can be generated and imaged with ease and in great three-dimensional detail. Changes in even small structural details of neurons can be identified, which are often important indicators of neurological disease, learning and memory, and brain development.

"Both new and archived preparations are essentially permanent and the information gathered from them increases the data available for characterizing neurons as individuals or as members of classes for comparative studies, adding to emerging neuronal banks," says co-first author Karen Thompson from Agnes Scott College.

"Just as plasmon resonance can explain the continued intensity of the red (caused by silver nanoparticles) and yellow (gold nanoparticles) colors in centuries-old medieval stained glass and other works of art, metal-impregnated neurons are also likely never to fade, neither in the information they provide nor in their intrinsic beauty," adds Mesce.
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Plasmon resonance and the imaging of metal-impregnated neurons with the laser scanning confocal microscope' can be freely accessed online at eLife.09388">http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.09388. Contents, including text, figures, and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife is a unique collaboration between the funders and practitioners of research to improve the way important research is selected, presented, and shared. eLife publishes outstanding works across the life sciences and biomedicine -- from basic biological research to applied, translational, and clinical studies. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust. Learn more at elifesciences.org.

eLife

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.