Max Planck researchers from Dresden develop affordable SPIM systems – inviting labs all over the globe to further develop the technology
Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM) is a trending microscopy method enabling live imaging of entire embryos with low phototoxicity. Max Planck researchers from Dresden present an open hardware and software platform that makes this technology accessible to the scientific community. The initial array is designed to be simple, compact, and can be extended by modules for various applications. A public website offers a detailed documentation and support for users, they in return share their innovations and knowledge.
SPIM is a perfect tool to capture patterns of gene activity in model organisms. But since some genomes contain thousands of genes and some organisms develop over several days, this is huge task. The more the merrier – researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden developed a SPIM system that makes the technology available to many labs all over the world und thus allows the parallel imaging of many samples. The MPI-CBG research groups of Pavel Tomancak and Jan Huisken now present OpenSPIM: a DIY microscope that is simple, compact, modular and accessible.
Simple and idiot proof
The OpenSPIM starter kit includes a single-sided illumination and single-sided detection light-sheet arrangement, the very basics of SPIM. The system is controlled by an extension of the software ?Manager running in the image processing software Fiji, programmed by Johannes Schindelin and his team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The entire array neatly fits into a small suitcase. The system is really easy to set up and operate, as was proven by students of the African Leadership Academy during a microscopy course in South Africa in March: They managed to build their own SPIM microscope in less than two hours. All participants of the microscopy course confirmed the ease of use of the SPIM starter set, for instance by stating in the feedback forms: "absolutely idiot proof".
The OpenSPIM platform is shared with the scientific community through a public website (openspim.org) which documents in great detail the building, alignment, software and operation of the system via videos, texts, or pictures. In return, users add and contribute their knowledge and innovations back to the wiki site. The initial OpenSPIM creators took matters into their own hands; now the further development is entirely in the hands of labs all over the globe. A vibrant community bringing together biologists and technology developers world-wide, so they hope, will create innovative ideas for addressing complex scientific questions.