How and Why
Do Scientists Use an X-Ray Microscope
|The x-ray microscope is an extremely powerful microscope that permits analysis of the subcellular components of a human or bacterial cell. It works like a light microscope, except it uses x-rays instead of visible light and has a camera and monitor to image the specimen.|
The X-Ray Microscope
Unlike the more widely used
electron microscope, the x-ray microscope is capable of imaging thick
specimens, allowing researchers to view unsliced cells. Because of this,
scientists can see a closer representation of what the original cell
structures look like, because the cells have not been subjected to disrupting
preparations like dehydration and slicing. Some other advantages of
using the x-ray microscope are that no special preparations are needed
to view a specimen and it produces very-high-resolution images.
Viewing Malaria-Infected Blood Cells
silicon nitride x-ray viewing windows pictured here are used with the
x-ray microscope. These are different from regular microscope slides
because they are extremely thin and allow x rays to pass more easily
through them. Among other experiments, researchers at Berkeley Lab are
studying how the malaria-infected blood cells bind to blood vessels.
Since using an actual live human blood vessel for their experiments
is not possible, they use melanoma (skin cancer) cells in their experiments.
This is a good substitute, because certain receptors on the surface
of melanoma cells are similar to those of endothelium in the blood vessels
and because the melanoma cells are relatively easy to grow and maintain.
Melanoma cells grow readily on the x-ray window. After several days
of growth, infected blood cells are incubated on top of the melanoma
cells and the parasitized red blood cells bind to the specialized receptors
on the melanoma cell surface. This allows researchers using the x-ray
microscope to monitor the interaction betweein the infected cells and
the melanoma receptors.
What a Malaria-Infected Cell Looks like with the X-Ray Microscope
is an image taken with the x-ray microscope of a malaria-infected blood
cell. Researchers at Berkeley Lab use pictures like this to analyze
what makes the malaria-infected blood cells stick to the blood vessels.
Hopefully, the information they gather on the malaria parasite from
experiments like this will help lead to the cure for this widespread