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Biotech News

New Microscope Reveals What Is Really Going On Inside Your Cells

Thanks to a new microscope, scientists can now take 3-D movies of molecular processes that previously were invisible to us. Developed at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, the microscope allows researchers to peer into living cells and see multiple molecules in action. It is already providing new insights into the biochemistry of life.

How it Works

Like many technological advances, the new microscope combines previous techniques to take a significant leap forward. Light-sheet microscopy is a common research technique that illuminates a microscopic object with a sheet of light. The microscope then takes snapshots of the object from multiple angles to produce a 3-D image.  Another technique, single molecule spectroscopy, has allowed scientists to tag a molecule with fluorescence and then use the fluorescence to observe the molecule, though not much else.

Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

The new microscope combines light-sheet microscopy with single molecule spectroscopy. It allows researchers to observe and measure the complex processes of living cells molecules, which are so small they are measured in nanometers (to give you an idea of how small a nanometer is, if you are five feet, eight inches tall then you are also about 1,727,200,000 nanometers tall, close to two billion!).

Pixel by Pixel Views

Unlike single molecule spectroscopy, the new microscope can record every pixel in view across a sample, even if the sample contains multiple cells. The microscope can also take shots at intervals less than a millisecond, allowing it to record the processes it is observing as movies in 3-D. You can see some of the new microscope movies of subjects such as yeast cells and fruit fly larval wings at

New Insights

The microscope can only be used in living cells, but in doing so, it will allow scientists to better understand a variety of biochemical processes (everything your body is doing right now, including reading this screen, is a result, at least partially, of biochemical processes). It has already provided surprises to scientists who study chromatin, which is basically the DNA, RNA and protein that make up the chromosomes in a cell’s nucleus.

Scientists had previously only observed chromatin either tightly wound and therefore unreadable to the cell, like a closed book, or loose and readable, like an open book. The new microscope has revealed that in the presence of a certain protein, chromatin appears to have an intermediate stage between the previously known stages.

This is only the beginning. Because the microscope can observe complex processes in what is almost real time, scientists predict it will help us better understand a variety of biochemical processes, ranging from the role of growth hormones in cancer to the regulation of cell division and the patterning of tissue development in an embryo.

The First Biogas Train in the World

The first train, which runs on biogas, was launched in Sweden on the twentieth of June 2005.  Biogas is a kind of fuel produced by the methodical decomposition of various types of organic wastes. This train runs from the town of Linkoeping in Stockholm to the town of Vastervik. The total distance covered by it is approximately that of fifty miles or eighty kilometers. The total capacity of the train is that of fifty-four passengers.

The main aim behind having a train that runs on biogas is to reduce the level of pollution considerably. Scientific searches show that, the use of biogas helps in reducing the total emission of the Green house gases, which are the main reason behind world pollution.

Basically, the train just consists of just a plain compartment for the passengers. The engine is substituted using two sets of the Volvo gas engines. The entire structure is similar to the structure of any other primitive train.

The fuel for this train is also extremely cost efficient, as there is no costly raw material or any kind of an instrument needed. All that is needed are the different types of wastes from animals and plants. This waste is then stored in tanks with sufficient amount of water for decomposition. Then, using this decomposed material gas is created which is known as the ‘biogas’.

The train consists of eleven canisters filled with biogas, which is sufficient enough to cover up the entire journey of almost six hundred kilometers at a constant speed of one hundred and thirteen kilometers per hour. For the Swedish people, coming up with this kind of a train was quite an easy task as their country is already a home to lots of public buses running on biogas fuel. Thus, creating a brand new engine for such kind of a train was an absolute cakewalk for them.

Using biogas has been one of the smartest moves made by Sweden in order to save their country from different pollution hazards. Among various sources of renewable energy, biogas is available vey easily and is also extremely commercially viable. It doesn’t harm or affect any other form of life; in fact it cleans up most of the waste produced by animals and plants very resourcefully. Biogas is considered to be the best available type of renewable source of energy amongst wind, water and etc.

Looking at the way pollution has been affecting the world over the past few years, Europe is one of the very few continents that realized, that we have to come up with an alternative to the depletion of the various non-renewable sources of energy. It chose to promote the use of biogas and other renewable sources of energy on a very large scale to overcome the adverse effects of the hazardous activities of mankind over the years.

It has been seen statistically over the years, that the various modes of transportations are the ones, which contribute the most to world pollution globally. Thus, Europe aimed at substituting petrol/diesel with biogas as an effective source of fuel for buses and cars.

There is an average population of around nine million in the country of Sweden. There is also an estimate of around eight hundred buses, which run in the whole of Sweden. Thus, substituting petrol/diesel in all these buses with biofuel totally or with a mixture of biofuel and petrol has efficiently helped reduce pollution considerably. As a matter of fact, Sweden has gone a step ahead by introducing the use of biogas as fuel in trains too. Other countries must take a lesson from them.