Stanford creates miniature self-contained fluorescence microscope, NOT BIGGER than lead tip of a pencil

Stanford researchers have created a miniature self-contained fluorescence microscope, the smallest self-contained fluorescence microscope ever, weighing just under 2 grams (slightly larger than the lead tip of a pencil), which is small enough to be attached to a mouse head, enabling the scientists to watch the mouse brain in a natural setting.

Hailed as a breakthrough, the latest invention has the potential to be used in humans as well; something which will enable researchers to study the human brain in ways that have not been possible before. That is by attaching the miniature microscope right on human head; instead of bringing specimens to the so-called bench-top microscopes.

Notably, by attaching the miniature microscope on to a mosue head, the researchers have already discovered new capillary dilation properties in mouse brains.

How the world’s first and smallest miniature self-contained fluorescence microscope works:

The fluorescence microscope differs from traditional microscopes in that it has the ability to look at only those material or specimen that has a fluorescence property, or that is fluorescent (fluorescence is the emission of light by a material when exposed to radiation).

To take advantage of this property of substances, specimens must be either naturally fluorescent (such as certain proteins) or stained with a fluorescent material (similar to, when some iodine isotope dye is used in IVP test for kidney stones). The approach is similar to that seen when a black-light is used to illuminate semen or blood samples at crime scenes.

To make use of the same principle, the light sources used in a fluorescence microscope are typically xenon arc or mercury-vapor lamps.

How the world’s first and smallest miniature self-contained fluorescence microscope is produced:

The miniaturized microscope comprises of mass produced parts, allowing it to be mass produced at a much lower cost than standard bench-microscopes.

One area where the miniature microscope appeaser wanting is its resolution, which right now is isn’t as good as the standard bench models. The miniature microscope has a resolution of 2.5 microns as opposed to 0.5 (1 micron equals 10 raised to power minus 6). But the good thing is, it does have a larger field of view. This simply means that the miniature microscope in its current stage of development can find a place in traditional laboratories alongside the traditional microscopes.

The researchers who created the miniature microscope, led by Mark Schnitzer and Abbas El Gamal, the team, have already founded a company; they call Inscopix, to develop the new microscope and bring it to market. The detailed report on this microscope has been published in Nature Methods. --------

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