Ever since we started observing biological structures, we have focused on magnifying on miniscule structures using microscopes. But what if we could do this in reverse — enlarging the actual structures themselves so we wouldn’t have to magnify them as much? Edward Boyden and his research team at MIT figured out such a way. They attached polymers, including the one in baby diapers (which swell up when in contact with water), to structures such as individual neurons and added water to expand the tissues evenly. This way, they could increase the size of cultured cells and tissues by up to five times yet still maintain their structure.. They call this technique “expansion microscopy”. Ultimately, this technique allows us to observe structures with not only better magnification, but also with a significantly higher resolution.
Though some shortcomings such as the evenness or fragility of expanded structures do exist, expansion microscopy is expected to lead to great advancements in fields including brain, cancer, and stem cell researches.