Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, are developing a polarized light microscope (pol-scope) with substantial advantages over traditional pol-scopes in speed, resolution, and versatility. The microscope, with a new liquid crystal (LC) universal compensator, produces images in under one second that measure optical anisotropies irrespective of sample orientation and at the spatial resolution of the microscope. While traditional pol-scopes are typically used to measure optical anisotropy in a single specimen point, the new microscope provides measurements over a large area with high spatial and temporal resolution. We propose to build on successful Phase I results to complete the development of an enhanced LC universal compensator with software that implements MBL's algorithm for calculating retardance magnitude and orientation. These developments will make available to the scientific community the first capability to visualize and analyze quantitatively the dynamic organization of macromolecular assemblies, independent of their orientation, in living cells. Examples of such assemblies include the mitotic spindle, the contractile ring during cell cleavage or the microtubule organization during cell interphase. We anticipate that an attractively priced accessory based on this research will find solid niche markets for scientific investigations, as well as clinical and industrial applications.
This research will lead to a universal compensator with significant advantages over conventional devices, at a comparable price. Applications in microscopic and macroscopic imaging range from cell biological studies, such as the dynamics of the cytoskeleton, stack membranes, and DNA tertiary structures, to clinical routing investigations and industrial quality control.