Article

Article

All news stories

Cold as vitreous ice: high-pressure freezing microscopic bugs

In normal microscope preps, ice crystals that form as a sample is frozen can damage a cell's ultrastructure and create a less-than-perfect image. Microscopy Suite Director Scott Robinson demonstrates how using high pressure freezing/freeze substitution provides unparalleled cellular preservation.
Published on June 18, 2021

Microscopy Suite Director Scott Robinson demonstrates how using high pressure freezing/freeze substitution provides unparalleled cellular preservation.
Credit for news photo: Nate Schroeder and Microscopy Suite staff.
In scanning electron microscopy, samples are often frozen during preparation. However, ice crystals that form as a sample freezes can damage a cell’s ultrastructure, the minute cellular architecture visible only with a microscope.

Scott Robinson, Director of the Beckman Institute's Microscopy Suite, demonstrates a high-pressure freezing/freeze substitution machine with the power to provide perfect ultrastructural preservation. This piece of equipment can freeze samples like nematodes (microscopic organisms also called roundworms) so quickly that ice does not have time to crystallize. Instead, they freeze in vitreous, or glassy, ice, enabling a clear visualization.

As Robinson explains: “It’s not just the pretty pictures. We want the pictures to show the function as much as we possibly can. We want to be able to show you the thing as it really looks.”

Editor’s note: The full video is accessible on Beckman Institute's YouTube channel and a two-minute abbreviated version is located here. 

In this article