Thursday, October 29, 2015

Top 10 Microscopy Tips

At Microscope World we spend all day long using microscopes and helping customers solve microscope related problems. These are some of our top 10 microscopy tips to keep your microscope experience fun and enjoyable!

  1. Always start focusing at the lowest possible magnification. On a biological microscope this will be with the 4x objective. On a stereo microscope the setting is around 1x. Once you get the lower magnification in focus it will be easier to move up in magnification and obtain a focused image.
  2. When using prepared slides, make sure you put them on the microscope right-side up. If they are upside down you won't be able to focus the image.
  3. Place your sample in the center of the microscope stage and make sure you have plenty of light shining on it.
  4. Always focus the coarse focus first, then fine-tune with the fine focus knob.
  5. Don't buy a plastic microscope or a microscope with plastic optics. The frustration won't be worth the money saved.
  6. When increasing magnification on a compound microscope adjust the condenser and light intensity accordingly.
  7. Keep microscope lenses clean and when the microscope is not in use, cover it with a dust cover.
  8. Use your imagination and look at a number of different samples! Here are some ideas for what to view with your stereo microscope. If you are using a biological compound microscope get some pond water to look at, try looking at your cheek cells and peel an onion skin and put it under the microscope. Be creative!
  9. When purchasing a microscope figure out beforehand if you want a stereo microscope or a biological microscope. They are different and will allow you to view different types of specimens. There's a great article here that explains the differences between stereo microscopes and biological microscopes.
  10. Keep learning! If you have questions microscopy message boards & groups are a great place to ask, or post your question on the Microscope World Facebook page. If you enjoy seeing images under the microscope check out this Tumblr page of microscopy images.
Pond water captured under the microscope at 400x magnification.
Microscopy image of pond water captured at 400x.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Penumonia under the Microscope

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli. It is usually caused by infection involving viruses or bacteria and less commonly caused by other microorganisms, drugs or other conditions such as autoimmune diseases.

Typical signs and symptoms of pneumonia include cough, chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. Diagnostic tools include x-rays and a culture of the sputum. Vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia are available. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Pneumonia presumed to be bacterial is treated with antibiotics. If the pneumonia is severe, the affected person is hospitalized.

The images below are of a human lung infected with viral pneumonia and were captured with the RB30 clinical lab microscope using the HDCAM4 high definition microscopy camera.

Microscopy image of viral pneumonia captured at 40x under the RB30 clinical lab microscope.
Lung infected with viral pneumonia under the microscope at 40x.

Microscope image of pneumonia captured at 100x under a clinical lab microscope.
Lung infected with viral pneumonia under the microscope at 100x.

Microscopy image of pneumonia at 400x.
Lung infected with viral pneumonia under the microscope at 400x.

Microscope image of pneumonia captured with a plan semi apochromat fluor objective at 400x magnification.
Lung infected with viral pneumonia under the microscope at 400x using a Semi Plan Apochromat Fluor objective.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Breast Cancer Awareness: Mammary Glands under the Microscope

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Of all breast cancers about 80% originate in the mammary ducts. The mammary gland is a gland located in the breasts of females that is responsible for lactation, or the production of milk. Both males and females have glandular tissue within the breasts. However, in females the glandular tissue begins to develop after puberty in response to estrogen release.

Mammary glands only produce milk after childbirth. During pregnancy, the hormones progesterone and prolactin are released. The progesterone interferes with prolactin, preventing the mammary glands from lactating. During this time, small amounts of a pre-milk substance called colostrum are produced. This liquid is rich in antibodies and nutrients to sustain an infant during the first few days of life. After childbirth, progesterone levels decrease and the levels of prolactin remain raised. This signals the mammary glands to begin lactating. Each time a baby is breastfed, the milk is emptied from the breast and immediately afterward, the mammary glands are signaled to continue producing milk.

As a woman approaches menopause, the tissues of the ductile system become fibrous and degenerate. This causes involution, or shrinkage, of the mammary gland and thereafter the gland loses the ability to produce milk.

A few known ways to reduce breast cancer risk include:
  • Reducing amount of alcohol consumed (women who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of getting breast cancer as women who don’t drink alcohol.)
  • Losing weight if obese or overweight.
  • Increasing physical activity. In one study from the Women's Health Initiative, as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. 
The images below are of the mammary gland captured under the RB30 laboratory microscope using a high definition microscopy camera.

Microscopy image of mammary gland at 40x.
Mammary gland under a lab microscope at 40x.

Microscopy image of mammary gland under lab microscope at 100x.
Mammary gland under a lab microscope at 100x.

Micrscopy image of mammargy gland for breast cancer awareness month.
Mammary gland under a lab microscope at 400x.

Microscopy image of mammary gland at 400x using a plan fluor objective lens.
Mammary gland under a lab microscope at 400x using plan fluor objective lens.

For more information on breast cancer prevention and early detection please click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Diphtheria under the Microscope

Corynebacterium Diphtheriae is a rod-shaped bacteria belonging to the order of Actinomycetales, which are typically found in soil, but also have pathogenic members such as Streptomyces and mycobacteria. It is a gram-positive, aerobic, non-motile and toxic producing bacteria.

Corynebacterium Diphtheriae is best known for causing the disease Diphtheria in human beings, which results from the production of the Diphtheria toxin in conjunction with an infection by a bacteriophage, which provides it with a toxin-producing gene. Diphtheria has been studied heavily, because historically it was a very deadly disease, especially for children where mortality rates were eighty percent before vaccines and antitoxin were developed. Since rats and mice are naturally immune to the Diphtheria toxin, it has been difficult to study in a lab.

Diseases resembling Diphtheria were described as early as the 4th century BCE by Hippocrates. It was named in 1826 by French physician Pierre Bretonneau, who gave it the Greek name for leather hide. This was a very appropriate name since the disease creates a leathery layer that grows on tonsils, throat and nasal passages.

By 1892 the first antiserum was developed by Emil Von Behring and ready for commercial production. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1891.

In 1923 Alexander Glenny, Barbara Hopkins and Gaston Ramon produced a vaccine for Diphtheria. They found that formaldehyde could prevent the Diphtheria toxin from being toxic, and the non-toxic form still retained its antigenic qualities. This vaccine led to a large decline in the number of cases of Diphtheria. In 2014 there was only one recorded case of Diphtheria in the United States.

The images below of Corynebacterium Diphtheriae were captured using a lab research microscope and a CCD microscopy camera.

Corynebacterium Diphtheriae under the microscope at 40x.
Corynebacterium Diphtheriae under the microscope at 40x.

Microscopy image of Corynebacterium Diphtheriae at 100x.
Corynebacterium Diphtheriae under the microscope at 100x.

Microscopy image of Diphtheria bacteria.
Corynebacterium Diphtheriae under the microscope at 400x.

Diphtheria bacteria images from under the microscope at 400x using a plan fluor objective lens.
Corynebacterium Diphtheriae under the microscope at 400x captured with a Plan Fluor Objective.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Earth's Beauty under the Microscope

Bernardo Cesare is a Professor of Petrology at the Department of Geosciences of the University of Padova, Italy. His scientific interests include metamorphism and melting of rocks, mineralogy, and the study of inclusions in minerals. He extensively uses photomicroscopy to describe the subjects of study and their morphological features.

Cesare's photomicrographs were captured with a digital reflex camera mounted on a polarizing microscope. After shooting the image, no manipulation is involved. The interference colors are the result of natural propogation of polarized light into minerals, and of the use of the microscope compensator λ. In order for the rock sections to be transparent, all rock samples are cut, sliced, and thinned down to a 30-micron (0.03mm) thickness and mounted on a glass holder. This is the standard "thin section" research technique of geologists.

Polarizing microscopy image of Charoite Rocks.
Charoite, A Rock from Russia © Bernardo Cesare

Polarizing microscope image of Agat.
Agat, A Rock from Brazil © Bernardo Cesare

Polarizing microscopy images of Tiger's Eye from South Africa.
Tiger's Eye from South Africa © Bernardo Cesare

Sugar under a polarizing microscope.
Sugar Crystals from a drying drop of Liquer © Bernardo Cesare

Sugar crystals under the polarizing microscope using the compensator.
Sugar © Bernardo Cesare

Polarizing microscopy image of a plastic bag.
Fragment of a Vacuum Plastic Food Bag © Bernardo Cesare

Polarizing microscopy image of rock thin sections and minerals.
Rock Deformations © Bernardo Cesare

Thank you to Bernardo Cesare for sharing his images with Microscope World. To view more of his images please visit his website: