A light microscopic technique that produces high-resolution images of fluorescently stained specimens without requiring elaborate preparation of the sample. The fluorescent markers, generally fluorescently labelled antibodies (see immunofluorescence), are excited by light from a laser focused by the objective lens of the microscope so that it scans a single plane in the specimen, creating an optical section, under computer control. The emitted fluorescent light is captured by a photomultiplier and assembled into digital images by a computer. Serial scanning of, say, an entire cell can thus visualize successive sections through the cell or create three-dimensional, or even time-lapse, images. Moreover, numerous fluorescent probes are available for labelling different components of cells or other material.
Subjects: Biological Sciences.