LANL scientists develop 3D tracking microscope

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By John Severance

Jim Werner got the idea after attending a conference in Aspen, Colo., back in 2002.
“The conference highlighted two-dimensional views of a single idea and I got the idea we have to start doing this in three-dimensions,” Werner said this week. “I wrote a proposal and got it funded.”
In 2008, Werner and his staff at the Los Alamos National Laboratory came up with the world’s first confocal microscope capable of following the 3D motion of nanometer-sized objects, which earned a 2008 R&D 100 award. That award recognized the top 100 industrial innovations worldwide.
But Werner and his staff were not done yet.
Earlier his month, they developed a 3D tracking microscope to follow three-dimensional movement of individual protein molecules inside live cells.
In an early demonstration, this instrument was used to follow three-dimensional dynamics of key proteins involved in the human allergic response and associated biological signals.
The microscope system simultaneously samples four spots surrounding the molecule under scrutiny and tracks both its spatial and temporal dynamics. To facilitate such tracking, these important signaling molecules are labeled with quantum dots, tiny glowing nanocrystals.
The system enjoys several advantages over other approaches to 3D molecular tracking:

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