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X-ray diffraction images of yeast and bacterial cells

X-ray diffraction pattern of crystallized 3Clp...
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Two studies published in Physical Review Letters (Nov. 5, 2009) report on using X-ray diffraction to take images of cells.  One study imaged a yeast cell at 25 nm resolution and the other study imaged a bacterial cell at 30 nm resolution.  Usually x-rays damage cells but these studies imaged specimens at cryogenic temperatures of around -170 degrees Celsius.  It is expected that a theoretical resolution of 10 nm is within reach as long as specimens are not damaged.  It should also be possible to take 3D x-ray images of cells.
Both groups images show features much better than the optical images.  However comparing x-ray diffraction microscopy with fluorescence microscopy, fluorescence microscopy can achieve similar resolution to x-ray diffraction microscopy (see this study using STED microscopy) with the advantage that samples can be imaged at room temperature with the cells alive in real-time.

Bacterial study:
Corresponding author: Enju Lima
Institute: European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

Yeast study:
Corresponding author: Chris Jacobson
Institute: Stony Brook University

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