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Optical Tomography Moves to Developmental Biology

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2002
Faculty and students at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., are using optical coherence tomography technology to capture three-dimensional movies of developing cell systems.

Conventional methodologies typically employ a scanning electron microscope, which requires that the subject be dead. The optical coherence microscope uses a near-IR superluminescent diode to emit approximately 850-nm light that can produce images from as deep within a live subject as 1 mm without causing damage.

Similar technology is used among ophthalmologists for scanning patients' retinas, and in other medical applications such as gastrointestinal endoscopy and dermatology.

Richard Haskell, a biophysicist at the college, said the researchers are the primary group using the technology for detailed study of developmental biology. So far, the microscope has been used to capture gastrulation in the very early stages of frog embryonic development. Haskell said the scientists are also beginning to image cell division growth in plant roots.

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