Email Print Share
February 9, 2009

3-D Imaging of Mammalian Cells With Ion-Abrasion SEM

"3-D Imaging of Mammalian Cells with Ion-Abrasion Scanning Electron Microscopy"

The delicate swirls of pink and gold in this image could have come from Botticelli's brush, but there's nothing angelic about the subject, a melanoma cell. It is seen here by an ionabrasion scanning electron microscope that uses a method of 3-D imaging being developed at the National Cancer Institute. The microscope sends beams of gallium ions across an object, blasting away layers of the surface 20 nanometers at a time. By scanning each newly created surface, the microscope can compile 3-D images with unprecedented detail and resolution, says image creator Donald Bliss, a medical illustrator at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. The images show almost too much detail. "It's like looking at a bowl of spaghetti suspended in clear Jell-O," he says. So Bliss chose to highlight some of the data. Here, he shows the nucleus as the dark sphere, engulfed by mitochondria (in pink) and endoplasmic reticulum (in gold).

This image was tied for honorable mention in the Illustration category of the 2008 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge (SciVis). The competition is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science. To learn more about the SciVis competition, see the SciVis Special Report Here. (Date of Image: 2008)

Credit: Donald Bliss and Sriram Subramaniam, National Library of Medicine, NIH

Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.

Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (2.5 MB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.