Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) were recently awarded a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation in support of a research program to provide real-time images of biological processes at nano- and pico-scale resolutions.
“We’re building an instrument for the UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center that will make an optical image with a resolution of better than one nanometer,” said lead investigator Jean Claude-Diels, physics professor at UNM. “This is considerably less than the wavelength of light, which is generally considered to be the resolution limit for imaging.”
Hundreds of potential research questions could be answered with the scanning phase intracavity nanoscope, which will be capable of visualizing the components of living cells, according to the researchers. The new instrument will sample any host material, water or tissue with no sample preparation required and with no harmful radiation such as x-rays or high-energy radiation particle beams.
“We want to be able to see with our eyes what happens in the nanoscale in living organisms. For instance, we could see the details in the cell membrane. In the membrane you can see a very important path of the cell activity. We could see how a virus penetrates the membrane,” Diels said.