Exploring the third dimension: volume electron microscopy comes of age

Micron. 2014 Jun;61:9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.micron.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Feb 12.


Groundbreaking advances in volume electron microscopy and specimen preparation are enabling the 3-dimensional visualisation of specimens with unprecedented detail, and driving a gratifying resurgence of interest in the ultrastructural examination of cellular systems. Serial section techniques, previously the domain of specialists, are becoming increasingly automated with the development of systems such as the automatic tape-collecting ultramicrotome, and serial blockface and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopes. These changes are rapidly broadening the scope of biomedical studies to which volume electron microscopy techniques can be applied beyond the brain. Further innovations in microscope design are also in the pipeline, which have the potential to enhance the speed and quality of data collection. The recent introduction of integrated light and electron microscopy systems will revolutionise correlative light and volume electron microscopy studies, by enabling the sequential collection of data from light and electron imaging modalities without intermediate specimen manipulation. In doing so, the acquisition of comprehensive functional information and direct correlation with ultrastructural details within a 3-dimensional reference space will become routine. The prospects for volume electron microscopy are therefore bright, and the stage is set for a challenging and exciting future.

Keywords: CLEM; CLVEM; Correlative microscopy; FIB SEM; SBF SEM; Volume EM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron* / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning