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Understanding the hierarchical organizations of molecules and organelles within the interior of large eukaryotic cells is a challenge of fundamental interest in cell biology. Light microscopy is a powerful tool for observations of the dynamics of live cells, its resolution attainable is limited and insufficient. While electron microscopy can produce images with astonishing resolution and clarity of ultra-thin (<1 μm thick) sections of biological specimens, many questions involve the three-dimensional organization of a cell or the interconnectivity of cells. X-ray microscopy offers superior imaging resolution compared to light microscopy, and unique capability of nondestructive three-dimensional imaging of hydrated unstained biological cells, complementary to existing light and electron microscopy. Until now, X-ray microscopes operating in the "water window" energy range between carbon and oxygen k-shell absorption edges have produced outstanding 3D images of cryo-preserved cells. The relatively low X-ray energy (<540 eV) of the water window imposes two important limitations: limited penetration (<10 μm) not suitable for imaging larger cells or tissues, and small depth of focus (DoF) for high resolution 3D imaging (e.g., ~1 μm DoF for 20 nm resolution). An X-ray microscope operating at intermediate energy around 2.5 keV using Zernike phase contrast can overcome the above limitations and reduces radiation dose to the specimen. Using a hydrated model cell with an average chemical composition reported in literature, we calculated the image contrast and the radiation dose for absorption and Zernike phase contrast, respectively. The results show that an X-ray microscope operating at ~2.5 keV using Zernike phase contrast offers substantial advantages in terms of specimen size, radiation dose and depth-of-focus. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Zhili Wang, Kun Gao, Jian Chen, Youli Hong, Xin Ge, Dajiang Wang, Zhiyun Pan, Peiping Zhu, Wenbing Yun, Chris Jacobsen, Ziyu Wu. Advantages of intermediate X-ray energies in Zernike phase contrast X-ray microscopy. Biotechnology advances. 2013 May-Jun;31(3):387-92

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PMID: 22521962

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