Needless to say, microscopy has progressed radically since Leeuwenhoek first observed his “animalcules” through lenses.
It is now possible to dissect cells into their various microscopic components, aiding not only in modeling and visualisation but also treatment and the advancement of research. In the image above, scientists used a technique called stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to peer deeper into a kidney cell. Objects of interest – in this case a protein called actin involved in cell movement – are tagged with fluorescent markers, which light up under laser light. This composite image is formed from 230,000 frames and is detailed enough to illuminate individual actin fibres, which are less than a millionth of a centimetre thick. Such high resolution can reveal the effects of a disease or a genetic fault in the finest detail - advancing research and treatment to a whole new level simply through the power of visualisation.
The cochlea is a spiral-shaped tunnel in the bony labyrinth of the inner ear. Its principal component is a strip of sensory tissue (red) called the organ of Corti. The organ of Corti is lined with rows of auditory hair cells. Hair bundles that project from the hair cells are deflected in response to sound-induced vibrations in the basilar membrane. This bending opens mechanically gated ion channels, initiating the conversation of the sound-induced mechanical stimulus into an electrical transmission.
Image Source: M’hamed Grati and Bechara Kachar, NIDCD/NIH.
Your Biology Book Is Out Of Date
If you learn enough about biology, it becomes pretty clear that the “bag of water filled with organelles” view of the cell that is printed in almost every biology book in the world is just…well, wrong.
Nature has released a feature detailing some of the newest and strangest findings in recent years, from the membrane nanotube that some cells use to communicate between one another (top), to enormous chains of thousands and thousands of enzymes like the CTP synthase filaments (bottom, green blobs).
Image Source: Nature.
A human egg (seen here in yellow) along with nutritive follical cells (in pink), which nourish it to maturity and prepare it for its travel down the Fallopian tubes. Although eggs can be magnified up to 500,000x using a scanning electron microscope, in real life they’re approximately the size of a full stop.