Sharper microscopic images may be in sight with a new method that uses standard low-light electron multiplying CCD (EMCCD) cameras in a new way to reduce noise and minimize image deterioration. Conventional imaging can add electronic noise, causing distortion. The new technique, developed at the University of Texas at Dallas by an electrical engineering team led by professor Raimund Ober, could enhance the accuracy with which quantities of interest – such as the location, size and orientation of an object – are extracted from acquired images. “Our method is about using the EMCCD camera to its fullest potential, beyond what is commonly believed to be possible by the scientific imaging community,” Ober said. “We have figured out through rigorous theoretical developments that when you run an EMCCD camera in such a way that very few photons hit each of its pixels, the resulting image is minimally corrupted by the camera noise.” UT Dallas professor Raimund Ober By increasing the magnification to reduce the number of photons detected in each image pixel, camera noise and the deteriorative effect of the pixilation were significantly reduced. They attained a particle localization accuracy twice as high as obtained with conventional EMCCD imaging. The investigators applied ultrahigh-accuracy imaging modality (UAIM) to the live-cell tracing of a standard protein marker for breast cancer, gaining valuable information. “The tracking of individual proteins represents an important way to study cancer and other diseases at the molecular level,” Ober explained. “The applications of UAIM for diagnostics and research are promising.” The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, was published in Nature Methods (doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2396).