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Getting Granular

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Marcia StamellOne of the big stories in tools for biological research is the marriage of computational analysis and advanced optical methods. Progress in the two technologies goes hand in hand. Ever more powerful computation can allow researchers to access biological information that previously had been beyond their reach. That capacity in turn pushes demand for ever more exacting photonic methods to gather the data that can feed this analysis.

A case in point is discussed in our cover story, “Single-Molecule Localization Blazes New Paths for Microscopy,” by Carl Ebeling of Bruker. Single-molecule localization microscopy combines optical control of the fluorescence state with localization of individual molecules. The resulting superresolution images are rendered computationally to reveal structures with a high degree of detail. But direct statistical analysis of the data itself provides the bigger pay-off: Among other things, it enables investigation of the effects of drug treatments. The advancement of data analysis, the author writes, is as important as improving the imaging (read article).

Elsewhere in this issue:

• “3D Mapping of Neural Circuits In Vivo Opens the Window on Neurological Disease,” by Anna Linnenberger of Meadowlark Optics, examines the role of spatial light modulators in expanding the capacities of two-photon microscopes. When combined, the two devices are capable of parallelized excitation for photoactivation and volumetric imaging, giving researchers access to 3D images of single-cell resolution of the microcircuitry of the brain (read article).

• Handheld disinfection via UVC LEDs is providing a new weapon in the fight against hospital-acquired infections and chemical-resistant bugs. UVC LEDs’ output range of 260 to 270 nm is the sweet spot for DNA inactivation, which the devices deliver at the point of care, writes Rajul Randive of Crystal IS. They can be used to disinfect everything from surgical tools and patient rooms to catheters and ventilators. “UVC LEDs Can Combat Hospital-Acquired Infections” (read article).

• Behind the TV depictions of forensic pathology lies real-life photonic tools to analyze biological specimens, writes Ilene Semiatin in “Forensic Microscopy Expands Its Reach.” Tools such as stereomicroscopy, polarized light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy are in increasing demand for sexual assault investigations and for enforcement of homeland security and drug cases (read article).

• For our Biopinion this month, Duke University’s Nimmi Ramanujam writes about the benefits of women-led research into issues related to women’s health. The speculum, which had its beginning in 19th-century trials on African-American slaves, is a case in point. Created without consideration of patient pain, it remains a barrier to care. Ramanujam’s 21st-century team has developed a patient-centered alternative. The Pocket Colposcope is a tampon-like device that makes use of a consumer-grade light source and a camera to provide a live video stream or image of the cervix on a phone or tablet (read article).

Enjoy the issue.

Oct 2017
EditorialMarcia Stamell

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