RMC Products by Boeckeler Instruments and Zeiss have announced the launch of the automated tape-collecting ultramicrotome (ATUMtome) to facilitate efficient sectioning and handling of biological samples for 3-D image reconstruction. The instrument’s unique tape collecting method also enables large volumes of sections to be stored for future processing and examination.
The ATUMtome includes a diamond knife and ultramicrotome where researchers mount resin-embedded specimens, cutting serial sections that then float on a water surface in the diamond knife trough. The ATUMtome moves a continuous tape through this water trough, automatically removing the serial sections in sequential order. After section collection, the tape strips are mounted onto substrates and are available for imaging with a scanning electron microscope. The Zeiss Atlas 5 Array Tomography soft- and hardware package, available for all Zeiss scanning microscopes and crossbeams, enables researchers to image these serial sections in an automated way.
The taping feature is under license from Harvard University, where Jeff Lichtman, MD, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular biology, developed the instrument to collect ultrathin sections for 3-D image construction of the brain’s neural pathways. Lichtman’s research supports the National Institutes of Health’s Human Connectome Project to map the human brain.
Though currently used primarily for neuroscience research, the ATUMtome offers several potential applications, including mapping nanoparticles inside organs and tumors, and whole-cell imaging to correlate the 3-D distribution of specific proteins. Stored sections can be immunolabeled multiple times for examination under epifluorescence illumination.
“We’re envisioning many research projects opening up because of the ATUMtome,” says Pat Brey, Boeckeler president. “By increasing the efficiency in obtaining serial sections and retaining them for future analysis, the ATUMtome is an exciting tool to consider, especially among scientists who have wanted to do 3-D reconstruction but were held back because of the impractical effort it would take to handle all the sections needed. Also, scientists who need to retain the sections for future analysis will find the ATUMtome an ideal solution.”