Liver endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels in the liver, have numerous small pores on their surface. These pores play important roles in liver function, but are too small to be seen with traditional light microscopes. Consequently, the actions of these pores and their interactions with other cells are not well known. Researchers have now developed a robust and inexpensive homemade light microscope to visualise the features of those cells.
Liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSEC) surround the blood vessels inside the liver. With their numerous small pores of about 50 to 200 nanometres (nm) in diameter, LSECs function as a nanoscale sieve. The passage of nanoparticles through the pores to and from the surrounding liver cells is important for plasma and liver health. As the size of the pores is below the resolution limit of conventional light microscopes, they mostly escape researchers’ abilities to follow their interactions with nanoparticles and blood platelets.
While some techniques exist to beat the resolution limit of conventional light microscopes, such machines are expensive and come with a steep learning curve. Researchers at the Universities of Tromsø (Norway), Bielefeld (Germany), and Sydney (Australia) have now developed an easy-to-use super-resolution microscope that visualizes sub-cellular structures at great detail, but at a fraction of the cost of a commercial system.
Using their microscope, the team observed cell structures about 2,000 times smaller than a human hair. The resolution is good enough to see individual pores of 50 nm diameter in LSECs, which enables the researchers to investigate the effects of drugs on the cells. For instance, they already found that the mean pore size of LSECs increases when treated with Viagra. “We believe that Viagra makes the cell membrane become stiffer”, says Dr. Peter McCourt, one of the authors of the study.
Along with their publication in the journal Nanophotonics, the authors provide a detailed parts list and assembly instructions for their microscope. This will allow the community to easily copy their system and will contribute to the recent movement of democratizing super-resolution microscopy.
Read the original Open Access article here: