New scanning technology yields 3D images of live insects

"I was absolutely awed," researcher Joanna Konopka said. "I'm familiar with pictures and drawings in books but this gives us a wholly new perspective of what they are."
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 8, 2017 at 4:08 PM
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Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Scientists in Canada have developed a new method for imaging the insides of insects. The new scanning technology allowed researchers to develop extremely detailed 3D images of living insects.

Until now, researchers were only able to capture a snapshot of a dead insect, but the latest breakthrough allows for more detailed views without harming the insects.

The new imaging method will allow scientists to study dynamic physiological changes and processes. It is a vast improvement on standard insect imaging techniques.

"We essentially had snapshots, moments in time, when what we needed were dynamic images of insects' internal development," Joanna Konopka, a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario, said in a news release. "We thought, what would happen if we tried to image them live?"

Researchers were able to suspend insects in a kind of living stasis by introducing them to low-oxygen, carbon dioxide-rich environments. Insects have a remarkable ability to survive without oxygen for hours, or even days.

The suspended animation offers scientists up to seven hours to subject insects to a variety of scanning technologies. Scientists were able to develop detailed internal images of Colorado potato beetles and true armyworms, two common agricultural pests.

Images developed using the new technique revealed details as small as 20 microns.

"I was absolutely awed," Konopka said. "I'm familiar with pictures and drawings in books but this gives us a wholly new perspective of what they are."

Researchers described their new scanning process in a paper published recently in the journal BioMed Central.

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