A team of scientists from the University of Sheffield have developed a new microscope for studying the life in the dark.
The new microscope can be used to examine the microscopic life forms that inhabit dark environments and to study the biological processes that regulate them.
They say it will be a major step forward in the development of the future microscopes that will be used for research in dark environments.
The team at the University’s Institute of Photochemistry and Photobiology is led by Dr Mark Dickson.
They used the microscope developed by Prof Peter Sainsbury from the National Physical Laboratory in Cambridge to investigate how the life forms within the atmosphere react to ultraviolet light.
“We know very little about how these dark organisms live in their natural environments.
Our new microscope is an exciting and very exciting development,” said Dr Dickson, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the School of Engineering and Technology.
“This new microscope allows us to study and analyse the chemistry of the life-forms that inhabit the dark.”
Dark conditions may be more difficult to study than normal sunlight, which means scientists will need to use more sophisticated microscopes to see better than their predecessors.
“Our new microscope will allow us to explore how these microscopic organisms live under dark conditions and the biological functions that regulate their metabolism and growth,” said Professor Peter Sainbury, who is the principal investigator of the project.
The project has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the University Research Council.
They will be able to start working on the new microscope in March next year.
They hope that this new microscope, which is a “miniature version of a full-scale microscope”, will be useful in the future for investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying how life forms form in dark conditions.
Professor Sainwood said that in the past, scientists have been able to examine living organisms using a microscope but not with the power of the new one.
“In many cases, the microscope was not good enough for our purpose,” he said.
“Now, the technology we have at our disposal can enable us to see and study living things at the molecular level.”
The team is now looking to other scientists in the UK to provide support for the development and testing of the microscope.
“The team are extremely excited about this project and I am looking forward to working with them,” said Prof Peter Smith, Director of Research at the National Institutes of Health.
“It is a remarkable achievement for a university with a major biomedical focus, and I hope that other institutions will take note and take a look at the potential of our new microscopes,” he added.