Acoustic microscopy: resolution of subcellular detail
Recent advances now permit the use of scanning acoustic microscopy for the analysis of subcellular components. By sequential viewing of identified fixed cells with acoustic, light, and electron microscopy, we have established that the acoustic microscope can readily detect such features as nuclei and nucleoli, mitochondria, and actin cables. Under optimal conditions, images can even be obtained of filopodia, slender projections of the cell surface that are approximately 0.1-0.2 micron in diameter. Small objects separated by as little as 0.5-0.7 micron can successfully be resolved. Three aspects of the acoustic micrographs prepared in this preliminary survey seem especially prominent. These are, first, the extraordinary level of acoustic contrast that can differentiate the various cytoplasmic organelles, even in regions of very thin cytoplasm; second, the reversals in acoustic contrast that occur when altering the plane of focus; and third, the sensitivity of the acoustic response to overall cytoplasmic thickness. The acoustic microscope uses a novel source of contrast that is based on local mechanical properties. In addition, it can provide a degree of resolution that is comparable to that of the light microscope.