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Advanced polarized light microscopy for mapping molecular orientation

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Polarization is a basic property of light, but the human eye is not sensitive to it. Therefore, we don’t have an intuitive understanding of polarization-dependent phenomena. However, polarized light plays an important role in nature, and polarization microscopy can be used to understand molecular order in living cells, tissues, and whole organisms. The talk will describe a polarized light microscope, developed at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Massachusetts, called the LC-PolScope. This instrument measures the orientation of molecules at every resolved specimen point simultaneously. In addition to birefringence and diattenuation, it can also map the polarized fluorescence of fluorophores used to label structures like cell membranes and filaments. Recently, these techniques have been extended to multi-view microscopes. With a single-view microscope, measuring the inclination angles of the optical axes of bonds, particles, and fluorophores with respect to the focal plane remains a challenge. Multi-view microscopes record images along several viewing directions, thereby enabling unambiguous measurement of the three-dimensional orientation of molecules and their aggregates

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