Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Phys. Ulrich Simon (Spokesperson)
Dipl.-Phys. Ralf Wolleschensky
Dr. rer. nat. Bernhard Zimmermann Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH, Jena
Laser microscopes make molecular structures in living cells visible to the eye – an important tool when tracking down cancerous tumors. The difficulty: it is often impossible to differentiate between the different types of molecules. How can laser microscopes help us see more?
Ulrich Simon, Ralf Wolleschensky and Bernhard Zimmermann succeeded in reaching this goal with an innovative detection process. All three of the nominated researchers work for Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH: Ulrich Simon heads the division Microscopy as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Ralf Wolleschensky is development project manager for Advanced Imaging Microscopy, and Bernhard Zimmermann heads product management for the division.
A laser lets marked proteins glow
Biomedical research uses laser microscopy to identify cellular structures. This technology makes structures and processes of movement in cells visible with high spatial accuracy. Functions and dysfunctions can be recognized on the images – and can be used to detect defective growth or, for example, tumors. Fluorescence technology is used to mark objects: components in samples are marked with dyes which then – excited by a laser – emit light and thus become visible. With the fluorescent proteins used, it is possible to mark almost all kinds of protein molecules, but the overlapping colors in the color spectrum do now allow for a definite differentiation of the dyed specimens under a microscope.
The method developed by the researchers from Jena, however, is entirely different: it combines an innovative method of detection with a mathematical analytic process – and thereby makes multifluorescence images of living cells possible even given overlapping of the fluorescence emission spectra.
Mathematics help separate colors
How it works: an optical grating separates the fluorescent emissions of the samples in their color components which are then imaged on a multi-channel detector. The detector measures the exact color distribution of the fluorescence spectrum of every pixel. In this way, the spectral intensity distribution of all sample pixels can be determined. If several dyes are then bound to one sample pixel, the emission spectrum shows the overlapping of the individual colors. These signals are mathematically separated. An image with dyed structures in different colors then becomes visible.
Numerous marked cell and tissue components can be analyzed simultaneously with this process. The components can be easily and accurately typed and dynamic interrelations to living cells can be clearly traced. The new technology which increases the efficiency and speed of analysis has been incorporated in the LSM 510 META Laser Scanning Microscope from
Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH.