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Review
. 2018 Oct;30(41):e1706681.
doi: 10.1002/adma.201706681. Epub 2018 May 11.

Quantitative Cryo-Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy of Biological Materials

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Review

Quantitative Cryo-Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy of Biological Materials

Michael Elbaum. Adv Mater. .

Abstract

Electron tomography provides a detailed view into the 3D structure of biological cells and tissues. Physical fixation by vitrification of the aqueous medium provides the most faithful preservation of biological specimens in the native, fully hydrated state. Cryo-microscopy is challenging, however, because of the sensitivity to electron irradiation and due to the weak electron scattering of organic material. Tomography is even more challenging because of the dependence on multiple exposures of the same area. Tomographic imaging is typically performed in wide-field transmission electron microscopy (TEM) mode with phase contrast generated by defocus. Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) is an alternative mode based on detection of scattering from a focused probe beam, without imaging optics following the specimen. While careful configuration of the illumination and detectors is required to generate useful contrast, STEM circumvents the major restrictions of phase contrast TEM to very thin specimens and provides a signal that is more simply interpreted in terms of local composition and density. STEM has gained popularity in recent years for materials science. The extension of STEM to cryomicroscopy and tomography of cells and macromolecules is summarized herein.

Keywords: STEM; analytical microscopy; cryo-electron microscopy; cryo-scanning transmission electron tomography; cryotomography.

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