Expansion microscopy is a recently developed super-resolution imaging technique, which provides an alternative to optics-based methods such as deterministic approaches (e.g. STED) or stochastic approaches (e.g. PALM/STORM). The idea behind expansion microscopy is to embed the biological sample in a swellable gel, and then to expand it isotropically, thereby increasing the distance between the fluorophores. This approach breaks the diffraction barrier by simply separating the emission point-spread-functions of the fluorophores. The resolution attainable in expansion microscopy is thus directly dependent on the separation that can be achieved, i.e. on the expansion factor. The original implementation of the technique achieved an expansion factor of fourfold, for a resolution of 70-80nm. The subsequently developed X10 method achieves an expansion factor of 10-fold, for a resolution of 25-30nm. This technique can be implemented with minimal technical requirements on any standard fluorescence microscope, and is more easily applied for multi-color imaging than either deterministic or stochastic super-resolution approaches. This renders X10 expansion microscopy a highly promising tool for new biological discoveries, as discussed here, and as demonstrated by several recent applications.
Keywords: Cardiomyocytes; Connectivity; Cytoskeleton; Expansion microscopy; Neurobiology; Super-resolution microscopy; Synapses; Synaptic vesicles; X10.
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