Resin-embedded mouse embryo scanned with Xradia Context microCT. Sample courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Microscopy Applications for Life Sciences

Non-destructive Imaging Using X-rays

Visualizing Structure of Life Science Specimens

Understanding physiological structures is at the core of many research questions for life scientists working in musculoskeletal research, neuroscience, developmental biology, zoology, cancer research, entomology, and plant sciences. You may be seeking larger volumes of structural information and would prefer to avoid physical sectioning. ZEISS X-ray imaging systems provide high-contrast, high-resolution 3D imaging of your delicate biological samples including mineralized and soft tissues, individual organs and organoids, plant tissues and more. All can be studied histologically, without dissection, inside the specimen down to a cellular level.

Unstained mouse embryo (mounted sample) with internal organs highlighted imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Voxel size: 10.5 µm. Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, USA
Unstained mouse embryo (mounted sample) with internal organs highlighted imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Voxel size: 10.5 µm. Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, USA

Unstained mouse embryo (mounted sample) with internal organs highlighted imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Voxel size: 10.5 µm.
Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, USA

Unstained mouse embryo (mounted sample) with internal organs highlighted imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Voxel size: 10.5 µm.
Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, USA

Sub-micron 3D Imaging of Intact Samples

X-ray microscopes contain dedicated optical lenses to provide high resolution imaging, even in larger specimens. The ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope images samples ranging in size from millimeters to centimeters with sub-micrometer resolution. Whether you are investigating histology in whole embryos or tissue plugs, exploring structure in large samples such as bone, expanding your 3D view in delicate specimens like brain and other soft tissues or imaging the internal structures of plants or seeds, you can achieve high resolution and high contrast imaging without cutting your sample. Capture a large field of view to locate structures of particular interest and then zoom in with a higher magnification lens to explore these regions at greater resolution.

  • Moth abdomen imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Courtesy of A. Speksnijder, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands
Mouse tibia imaged using ZEISS Xradia Context microCT system.
Mouse tibia imaged using ZEISS Xradia Context microCT system.

Mouse tibia imaged using ZEISS Xradia Context microCT system. 2D virtual cross-section showing the bone microstructure and 3D rendering showing the trabecular network.

Mouse tibia imaged using ZEISS Xradia Context microCT system. 2D virtual cross-section showing the bone microstructure and 3D rendering showing the trabecular network.

Rapid Structural Imaging for Increased Productivity

Classical microCT is a powerful approach for the assessment of internal 3D structure when the priority is acquisition speed rather than highest possible resolution. The ZEISS Xradia Context microCT generates high-contrast images from samples ranging from millimeters to tens of centimeters in size and shares the stability and image quality optimizations found with all ZEISS Xradia X-ray imaging platforms.

This approach is perfect for rapid exploration of internal structure of samples as diverse as organs, bones, soft tissues, plants and small animal models, without the need for dissection.

  • Fly in amber

    Fly in amber imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope both without (left) and with (right) propagation phase contrast which captures interfaces between sample components with different refractive index.

  • 2D section from reconstructed 3D dataset of mouse lung tissue
    2D section from reconstructed 3D dataset of mouse lung tissue

    2D section from reconstructed 3D dataset of mouse lung tissue imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Both images were generated from the same dataset. Reconstruction of the 3D data was done using classical reconstruction
    (left: FDK method) and deep learning reconstruction (right: ZEISS DeepRecon).

    2D section from reconstructed 3D dataset of mouse lung tissue imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope. Both images were generated from the same dataset. Reconstruction of the 3D data was done using classical reconstruction
    (left: FDK method) and deep learning reconstruction (right: ZEISS DeepRecon).

  • Fly in amber
    Fly in amber

    Fly in amber imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope both without (left) and with (right) propagation phase contrast which captures interfaces between sample components with different refractive index.

    Fly in amber imaged using ZEISS Xradia Versa X-ray microscope both without (left) and with (right) propagation phase contrast which captures interfaces between sample components with different refractive index.

Uncover Minute Details

Advanced Acquisition and Reconstruction Options

Visualize smaller details from your X-ray imaging by reconstructing your 3D tomography data using Deep Learning approaches. This provides a significant reduction in noise in your images. ZEISS DeepRecon can increase your imaging throughput by 4-10 times and at the same time significantly reduces noise to uncover structures that were otherwise obscured.

In addition, X-ray imaging possibilities in unstained specimens with little to no density differences can be maximized using phase contrast imaging. Refractive index interfaces like membranes become visible when captured with phase contrast without the need for stain. For specimens where the use of contrast enhancing stain is impractical, phase contrast imaging provides the chance for high image quality.

Two osteocyte cells inside lacunae of the canalicular network of an adult human iliac trabecular bone.
Two osteocyte cells inside lacunae of the canalicular network of an adult human iliac trabecular bone.

Two osteocyte cells inside lacunae of the canalicular network of an adult human iliac trabecular bone. Imaged using ZEISS Xradia Ultra.
Courtesy of R. Recker, Creighton University, USA

Two osteocyte cells inside lacunae of the canalicular network of an adult human iliac trabecular bone. Imaged using ZEISS Xradia Ultra.
Courtesy of R. Recker, Creighton University, USA

Extending the Reach of Non-destructive Imaging to the Nanoscale

With resolution down to 50 nm, the ZEISS Xradia Ultra X-ray microscope provides non-destructive imaging possibilities at resolutions otherwise unachievable outside the synchrotron. With both absorption and Zernike phase contrast acquisition modes, you can image a diverse range of specimens using both stained and unstained sample preparation protocols. Whether your goal is studying cellular and subcellular structure, looking at nanoparticle uptake, biomaterial nanostructure or non-destructively exploring your specimen with nano resolution, ZEISS Xradia Ultra provides unique possibilities.

  • Bear jaw (120 mm x 200 mm) imaged from full jaw to micron-scale view of jaw-tooth interface.
    Bear jaw (120 mm x 200 mm) imaged from full jaw to micron-scale view of jaw-tooth interface.

    Bear jaw (120 mm x 200 mm) imaged from full jaw to micron-scale view of jaw-tooth interface. Macroscopically imaged using microCT with the ZEISS Flat Panel Detector to locate the interface of interest and the subsequent high-resolution acquisition with 0.4x and 4x objectives.

    Bear jaw (120 mm x 200 mm) imaged from full jaw to micron-scale view of jaw-tooth interface. Macroscopically imaged using microCT with the ZEISS Flat Panel Detector to locate the interface of interest and the subsequent high-resolution acquisition with 0.4x and 4x objectives.

  • Complete Cyclanthus bipartitus plant seed
    Complete Cyclanthus bipartitus plant seed

    Complete Cyclanthus bipartitus plant seed imaged with ZEISS Xradia Versa to locate the region for higher resolution acquisition (left). A zoom region cross-section of the Xradia Versa data is shown top right with the same field of view captured using ZEISS Xradia Ultra on bottom right.
    Courtesy of N. Senabulya and S. Smith, University of Michigan, USA

    Complete Cyclanthus bipartitus plant seed imaged with ZEISS Xradia Versa to locate the region for higher resolution acquisition (left). A zoom region cross-section of the Xradia Versa data is shown top right with the same field of view captured using ZEISS Xradia Ultra on bottom right.
    Courtesy of N. Senabulya and S. Smith, University of Michigan, USA

  • Single 2D slice from a 3D reconstruction of a dataset acquired using ZEISS Xradia Versa
    Single 2D slice from a 3D reconstruction of a dataset acquired using ZEISS Xradia Versa

    Single 2D slice from a 3D reconstruction of a dataset acquired using ZEISS Xradia Versa. The sample is prepared for serial blockface SEM and the organ of interest for high resolution acquisition is the carotid body. The X-ray microscope image was used for subsequent sample trimming and targeted acquisition using vEM.
    Data courtesy of Lucy Collinson, CRICK Institute, London

    Single 2D slice from a 3D reconstruction of a dataset acquired using ZEISS Xradia Versa. The sample is prepared for serial blockface SEM and the organ of interest for high resolution acquisition is the carotid body. The X-ray microscope image was used for subsequent sample trimming and targeted acquisition using vEM.
    Data courtesy of Lucy Collinson, CRICK Institute, London

Mapping Your Specimen in 3D

For Directed Multimodal Imaging Workflows

Thorough investigation of biological samples often requires the use of more than one imaging approach. When seeking high-resolution insights, locating the precise region of interest for visualization can be challenging as you are working with a relatively small field of view and larger specimen sizes. In addition, staining often renders the specimen opaque.

One benefit of non-destructive imaging with X-rays is the resulting generation of a 3D specimen map which can be used to both explore internal structure and to inform the location of subsequent higher resolution acquisitions. Capturing information at multiple resolutions is straightforward; you simply change the objective lens and zoom in with a higher magnification lens. Stepping to higher resolution technologies like nano X-ray tomography or volume electron microscopy (vEM), these structural maps are valuable for directing the necessary sample trimming and precise location to start acquisition of the EM volume.

High resolution and contrast are vital for precise location of the structures of interest and both the ZEISS Versa X-ray microscope and the ZEISS Context microCT provide valuable means of map generation for such multimodal studies.

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    * The images shown on this page represent research content. ZEISS explicitly excludes the possibility of making a diagnosis or recommending treatment for possibly affected patients on the basis of the information generated with an Axioscan 7 slide scanner.