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.