Press Releases

DATE2023.07.19 #Press Releases

The fastest infrared microscope to film living cells


Without using any molecular labels, it can take videos of molecular dynamics inside cells at 50 frames per second. 


July 19, 2023 

The University of Tokyo scientists developed the world’s fastest single-cell mid-infrared microscope, which can provide insights into biomolecules inside cells. 


Optical microscopes use lenses and visible light to let us observe cells. But if you want to peep deeper, say to the level of biomolecules in a cell, you will need specialized microscopes and use light beyond the wavelengths of human visible light. For example, mid-infrared microscopy uses infrared light to detect and visualize the vibrations of molecules. An advantage of this method is that the molecules do not need to be labeled with markers (that sometimes glow) to be able to visualize them. But the current mid-infrared microscopy method can image only at low resolution and is slow. So, it cannot visualize living cells at a good resolution.  

A team of researchers from the lab of Takuro Ideguchi, an Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo, has now succeeded in developing the world’s fastest mid-infrared microscope with sub-micrometer spatial resolution. The team improved on their mid-infrared photothermal microscope that detects the refractive index change of a sample due to heat caused by mid-infrared light absorption. The improved microscope can film living cells at 50 frames per second. And it will help observe the dynamics of biomolecules, such as proteins, in a living cell at a sub-second time scale. 

Compared to the traditional mid-infrared imaging system, the new system is several hundred-fold sensitive. The team was able to capture molecular vibration information of lipids and water inside the cells with high sensitivity. The high-speed and high-resolution system allows for video observations of phenomena such as cell signaling and bacterial spore germination in a never-seen detail. 


For more details, please refer to the publication: 

Genki Ishigane, Keiichiro Toda, Miu Tamamitsu, Hiroyuki Shimada, Venkata Ramaiah Badarla, and Takuro Ideguchi 2023. Label-free mid-infrared photothermal live-cell imaging beyond video rate. Light: Science and Applications. DOI: 10.1038/s41377-023-01214-2