Alexandros Lavdas from Eurac Research in front of the upgraded microscope

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Teaming up with the company Micro Photon Devices from Bolzano/Bozen, Eurac Research has developed a new confocal microscope that allows scientists to observe cellular biological processes with greater speed and precision.

In the field of bioimaging, biological objects are studied with the help of optics, electronics and informatics—technologies that are in widespread use in biology and medicine today.

In 2014, Eurac Research obtained its first confocal microscope, an essential bioimaging tool. Not unlike computer tomography, which produces sectional views of the body, the confocal microscope uses laser technology to make slice-by-slice scans of cell or tissue cross sections.

Reconstructing the slices afterwards on a computer screen produces 3D images of the cells that can be viewed from any angle and analysed using image analysis software. If proteins are marked with colored fluorescent markers, researchers can observe biological processes—normal or pathological—in the cell. This can be done both in fixed and in live cells, producing both still and video images.

Eurac Research’s confocal microscope, a top-of-the-line unit, is a modular setup that was recently upgraded to meet the evolving research needs. Working closely with a group of physicists and engineers from the University of Cambridge, the Politecnico di Milano as well as the Bolzano/Bozen company Micro Photon Devices, the neurobiologist Alexandros Lavdas from Eurac Research was responsible for adding a new sensor to the microscope, to create a prototype with increased functionality through the use of Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM). This technique allows researchers to peek into biochemical processes inside the cell. There are commercially available FLIM solutions, but the Eurac Research setup represents an advancement in speed and sensitivity over other systems.

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