The National Center for X-ray Tomography develops novel imaging technologies for biological and biomedical research. In particular, NCXT staff and collaborators are spearheading the development of soft x-ray tomography as a new tool for visualizing cells. A major part of this development has been the design, construction and now operation of XM-2, the world's first soft x-ray microscope for life science research. Located at the Advanced Light Source of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory the new microscope is now fully operational and in high demand.
We are also developing new light-based methods for imaging cells, for example high-numerical aperture cryo-light microscopy. This new modality allows cryopreserved cells to be sequentially imaged with light (fluorescence) and then x-rays. The latter visualizes the detailed, 3-dimensional sub-cellular architecture, whereas light-based imaging provides information on the positions of fluorescent-tagged molecules within the cell. These two pieces of data can be overlaid to form a single, information rich image of a cell. This technique is now producing powerful insights into cell structure and the local environment of the fluorescent-labeled molecule. This information can be integrated with molecular biology, genetics and computer modeling to greatly increase our understanding of cell biology.
The NCXT was recently featured in the KQED program Quest. First broadcast in Sept '12, this video contains background on the Center and details some of the research carried out by staff and collaborating scientists.
Professor Carolyn Larabell and Dr. Bertrand Cinquin operating the soft x-ray microscope. Photo by Sheraz Sadiq / QUEST.
The NCXT is a joint program between the University of California, San Francisco and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and is very grateful to be in receipt of joint funding from the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.