Researchers have recently used soft X-ray tomography (SXT) to render a high-resolution model of a cell and its internal structures in minutes.
Scanning electron microscopy is often used in cell imaging because it provides high-resolution nanoscale images. However, using scanning electron microscopes takes around a week to scan an individual cell, generating an enormous amount of data to analyze and interpret.
With SXT, scientists can create tomograms of a cell within five to ten minutes. When studying numerous cells, the significantly higher throughput makes SXT a much more practical analysis tool than the more data and time-intensive alternatives.
Changes occur to the organelles within cells when infected with viral pathogens, which can be observed on a molecular level. Tissue samples collected from an infected organism will not have all cells be infected, so it is vital to scan through cells more quickly to avoid wasting resources on a healthy cell where no changes to its molecular biology can be observed.
Researchers from the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) of Heidelberg University used this method to study SARS-CoV-2 infected cells from lung and kidney tissues. They observed clusters of SARS-CoV-2 particles on cell surfaces and identified changes in the cell interiors due to the infection. The research team is working to improve sample preparation techniques, automate the analysis of the 3D image data, and develop a soft X-ray microscope for laboratory use.
The team's study was published in Cell Reports Methods, which you can read more from here.
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