University of Otago neuroendocrinologist Rebecca Campbell explains why she uses the confocal microscope to look at cell components.
Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell
Confocal microscopy is very well suited for dealing with living tissue. We can look at larger sections of that tissue so that we can appreciate the relationships between the cells.
It allows us to visualise whole neurons and their relationships with the other neurons. So although we can’t see some of the ultrastructural features that we might need to go to the electron microscope for, we can see the bigger picture of the GnRH neuron, its whole length and the inputs that are talking to the GnRH neuron. If we went to the electron microscope to look at that, we would be dealing with many serial thin sections, and it would be needle in a haystack kind of stuff.
So one of the things that we do is we fill GnRH neurons with low molecular weight molecules, and this has allowed us to see the entire cytoplasmic contents of these cells, and there isn’t another technique that’s known that allows us to do that. When we take that tissue then to the confocal microscope, we can put together all of the different parts of this neuron to appreciate it as a whole cell.
Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell, University of Otago