SANANTONIO -- Some San Antonio scientists have launched a powerful new tool to peer inside cells. It s a microscope that can see details far greater than before.

The microscope is to other imaging systems what HDTV is to broadcasting, only you might call it super high definition.

At the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, researchers have hundreds of tools to help discover new ways to study, diagnose and heal human diseases.

The newest tool is a $400,000 instrument called N-STORM (Nikon Stochastic Optical Resolution Microscopy). It is an ultra-high resolution microscope that blows up images 6,000 to 10,000 times bigger than what the human eye can see.

When you look at it from the researcher's perspective, you re always trying to see things in greater detail, better resolution, said neuroscientist Jim Lechleiter, Ph.D.

The scope uses fluorescent probes to mark tiny parts of cells. It scans the images 50,000 times over several hours to come up with intricate images of the smallest part of the body. The images can be combined into a three-dimensional movable form.

When you get something like this, you don t know what s going to happen, Lechleiter stated. And you see things that you didn t expect and that s the fun part.

The precise imaging will help scientists study how viruses enter cells, eventually coming up with better ways to fight them off.

Instead of relying on clues from biochemistry, researchers can now see and document interactions.

It gives us another level of information that we didn t have before, Lechleiter added.

UTHSC is the first place in Texas to have one of the N-STORM microscopes. It s one of two in use in the country right now.

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