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Portable, Shareable Light Sheet Microscope Developed
July 6, 2018

Modern microscopy has given scientists a front-row seat to living, breathing biology in all its Technicolor glory. But access to the best technologies can be spotty.

Jan Huisken, a medical engineering investigator at the Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and co-founder of light sheet microscopy, has a new project meant to bridge the technology gap.

Postdoctoral Fellow Rory Power inspects the completed microscope, which at a little over 40 pounds can be mailed to biology labs around the globe. Photo: Jan Huisken.

His Morgridge team has developed a portable, shareable light sheet microscope – an engineering feat that shrinks a tabletop-sized technology down to the weight and dimensions of a suitcase packed for a week’s vacation. The project can be mailed to a lab anywhere in the world, configured remotely by Morgridge engineers, and run one to three months of experiments.

According to information, the microscope then either begins its mail-order journey to the next lab, or back to the Morgridge lab if a tune-up is needed – all at no cost to users. The first focus will be on sharing with the UW-Madison community.

“If we succeed, this project will certainly have a huge impact in the field of fluorescence microscopy and significantly change the way we collaborate,” says Huisken.

The team debuted the tool – nicknamed “Flamingo” for its one-legged stand and vertical profile – recently at the International Zebrafish Conference meeting at UW-Madison. It’s the perfect starting point for this device, since the zebrafish research community widely wants to use light sheet microscopy.

What is light sheet? Huisken’s microscopes illuminate samples from the sides with noninvasive “sheets” of light, giving scientists the ability to image samples over hours and days from every angle. This helps generate a tremendous amount of data quickly and gives researchers a 3D view of development in an almost completely unaltered state.

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