MDI Biological Laboratory

Microscopy Momentum at MDIBL

  • October 21, 2022

MDIBL’s facilities and website overflow with the beautiful and sometimes startling images its scientists, staff and students produce in the course of their research with the laboratory’s battery of microscopy and transgenic animal models.

One of the experts, Marko Pende, Ph.D., was recognized this month by Nikon’s international “Small World Photomicrography Competition” for making an “Image of Distinction” of a transgenic axolotl.

Marko Pende, Ph.D. axolotl

It’s the Mexican salamander’s nervous system being illuminated here – Schwann cells in cyan, with magenta axons in the body. (Pende says the blue circles in the eyes are iridescent cells that naturally fluoresce under the ‘scope)

“People can’t always relate to scientific images, even though they might say something great,” says Pende, a post-doctoral fellow at MDIBL. “I wanted to show the axolotl in a way that’s never been done before. I see beauty in it.”

For the technically inclined, Pende combined Darkfield and Fluorescence microscopy, with Image Stacking on a Stereomicroscope equipped with a Zeiss Plan Z 1.0x/0.25 FWD 60mm objective lens.

Get ready for more inspiring science photography to come from MDIBL: Pende, Prayag Murawala, Ph.D. and Light Microscopy Facility Director Frederic Bonnet, Ph.D., are gathering on campus the hundreds of components needed to construct a highly advanced, laser-driven light-sheet microscope that will be one of only four of its kind in the U.S.

The MesoSPIM (for meso-scale selective plane illumination microscopy) technology was pioneered by the Helmchen Lab at the University of Zurich. It allows entire organs and organisms to be imaged in three dimensions, with the ability to close in on their anatomy at the cellular level — and from any angle.

We’ll learn more about that initiative over the winter months. Meantime, use the links below to see some remarkable animations — including the development of the zebrafish’s brain, brain vasculature, and kidneys — that Bonnet created with the Laboratory’s existing array of microscopes. Somers et. al published this animation of protein translation in C. elegans in the journal Cell Reports Methods (see the full article here).