Scientists have developed a new microscope which enables a dramatically improved view of biological cells.

The researchers at the University of St Andrews have found a way to see far more detail thanks to an unusually curved beam of light. The innovative development, using curved surfaces (sheets) of light, provides essential information over a 10 times larger volume.

It is hoped that the development will lead to improved understanding of biological development, cancer, and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington that affect the human brain.

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The new form of "light sheet imaging" has been developed by an interdisciplinary team at St Andrews led by physicists Professor Kishan Dholakia and Dr Tom Vettenburg.

Professor Dholakia said: "There has never been a more important time to improve and enhance our visualisation of the biological world. Light plays an ever more important role in our understanding of how events at the cellular level can alter the course of the development of an organism, or the onset and evolution of disease."

"Our novel methodology allows the University of St Andrews to emerge as a world-leading institute for biomedical imaging, something we could not have envisaged even a few years ago."