Video: The Hidden Dance of Cells

John is a Science contributing correspondent.

Credit: Hemera/Thinkstock

BOSTON—The outer membrane of a cancer cell ruffles like the dress of a flamenco dancer. Getting a view on such delicate and dynamic biological structures at this scale is usually impossible. Traditional microscopes either fry the cell with too much light, or they don't have the speed or resolution to capture the action. A new technique, presented here today at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes ScienceNOW), shines ultra-thin planes of light through the specimen and captures the illuminated slices at a rate of hundreds of frames per second. It is now clear that mutations in the cancer cell cause the violent ruffling, which leads to a high density of vacuoles (those fluid-filled bubbles visible within the cell). The hope is that seeing life in action at this scale will reveal hidden mechanisms behind cancer and other diseases.

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Posted in Biology Video