Three-dimensional virtual histology enabled through cytoplasm-specific X-ray stain for microscopic and nanoscopic computed tomography

Research Highlight

X-ray imaging moves a shade closer to replacing scalpels


Improved tissue staining can help imaging technology peer inside organs without damaging them.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning uses software-based reconstruction techniques to turn multiple 2D X-ray scans of body tissue into detailed 3D images. Researchers from the Technical University of Munich have now developed a procedure that can enhance CT scanning of intricate biological features.

CT scanning often uses contrast agents, chemicals that penetrate specific bioregions to provide a contrasting X-ray signal against a uniform background. The team reports a way to produce CT images with sub-micrometre resolution using a nontoxic organic dye. They improved the uptake of the dye by cell cytoplasm, increasing image contrast, by using acid treatments to render it susceptible to amino-acid bonding.

Experiments showed that the new staining protocol could visualize structures, including an intact mouse kidney, with enough clarity for diagnostic purposes.

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  1. PNAS 115, 2293–2298 (2018). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1720862115
Institutions Authors Share
Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany
TUM University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar (MRI), Germany