SCIENCE
10/24/2014 12:44 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2014

Powerful New Microscope Allows Scientists To View The World Like Never Before

You've never seen cells up-close quite like this.

Developed at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a powerful new microscope can record the activity of living cells, molecules, and embryos in 3D and in real-time. Just check out the video above that shows a HeLa cell dividing, and prepare for your mind to be blown.

The microscope uses a technique called lattice light-sheet microscopy, which involves scanning a cell with ultra-thin sheets of light. This process allows scientists to collect high-resolution images while minimizing light damage to the cells. The research was described in a paper published online in the journal Science on Oct. 24.

"There are many cells you could look at forever in 3D," Dr. Eric Betzig, a physicist, inventor, and engineer at the institute who developed the microscope, said in a written statement. "We know what the microscope can offer in terms of the imaging, but I think there are a lot of applications we haven't even thought of yet."

For instance, observing the intricacies in the way cells behave may allow scientists to better understand the causes and development of cancer and how different congenital problems develop, Betzig told The Washington Post.

Betzig won the Nobel Prize in chemistry this year for the development of another powerful microscope technology called super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.

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