Acquired Electronics360

Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Microscopy Technique Visualizes Collagen in 3D

20 October 2017

Computed tomography (CT) scans are used to reconstruct a 3D organ from multiple 2D image slices for diagnostic assessments. Efforts to translate this technology to the molecular level could further precision medicine and the ability to customize treatments to each patient’s unique cellular features.

A 3D-printed custom device holds a motor (left) that spins the tube containing the sample. Source: Renee MeillerA 3D-printed custom device holds a motor (left) that spins the tube containing the sample. Source: Renee MeillerProgress in this challenging task is reported by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, who have succeeded in the 3D imaging of collagen, a protein essential for connective tissue and bone stability.

The challenge in imaging collagen is that these molecules are transparent. The contrast between lighter and darker objects that a traditional optical microscope reads won’t be generated by collagen. Second harmonic generation microscopy can convert the signals associated with collagen into 2D images, but not 3D.

The researchers developed an experimental and computational framework for assembling 2D collagen images, taken from multiple angles around the tissue sample, into a moderate-resolution 3D view, similar to the familiar CT scan of human organs. A 3D-printed device holds a tube attached to a small motor and sits on the stage of an upright microscope. Once a tissue sample is placed into the tube, the motor starts to spin it. Every time a laser source, located below the stage, sends light through the rotating sample, a laser scanner records the resulting 2D microscope image. At the end of the procedure, a complex mathematical algorithm reconstructs a 3D image from all of the 2D slices.

This technology might be used to detect subtle differences between highly aligned collagen fibers in breast and ovarian cancer tissue, which are distinct from the cross-hatched mesh of collagen found in normal tissue. These images may inform treatment decisions not only for cancer, but also for pulmonary fibrosis.

To contact the author of this article, email

Powered by CR4, the Engineering Community

Discussion – 0 comments

By posting a comment you confirm that you have read and accept our Posting Rules and Terms of Use.
Engineering Newsletter Signup
Get the Engineering360
Stay up to date on:
Features the top stories, latest news, charts, insights and more on the end-to-end electronics value chain.
Weekly Newsletter
Get news, research, and analysis
on the Electronics industry in your
inbox every week - for FREE
Sign up for our FREE eNewsletter


Date Event Location
12-16 Aug 2018 Vancouver, Canada
11-13 Sep 2018 Novi, Michigan
27 Sep 2018 The Reef, Los Angeles
03-05 Oct 2018 Boston, Massachusetts
26 Oct 2018 Old Billingsgate
Find Free Electronics Datasheets