BOSTON, March 16 (UPI) -- Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT have designed mini-microscopes that can create images at the resolution of much larger and more expensive microscopes.
The new imaging technology builds on a recently developed method called Expansion Mini-Microscopy, which uses a swellable gel to enlarge biological specimens by nearly 5 times their original dimensions.
Combined with mini-microscopes made from a webcam and off-the-shelf components, the method is capable of resolutions previously only achieved by benchtop microscopes.
As described in a study, newly published in the journal Scientific Reports, the research team successfully demonstrated the technique by magnifying and imaging bacteria.
"We anticipate that our ExMM technology is likely to find widespread applications in low-cost, high-resolution imaging of biological and medical samples, potentially replacing the benchtop microscope in many cases where portability is a priority, such as in research and health care scenarios in undeveloped countries or remote places," Ali Khademhosseini, director of the BWH's Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, said in a news release.
Khademhosseini led the effort to build a low-cost mini-microscope, while Edward Boyden and his research partners perfected the expanding gel.
"The beauty of the ExMM technology lies in its simplicity -- by combining physical and optical magnifications, high performance is achievable at a low cost," added Boyden, a scientists with the MIT Media Lab and McGovern Institute. "It's a 'best of both worlds' technology, in a way, utilizing the best features of inexpensive chemicals and inexpensive optics."