Scientists using a new technique have managed to produce the . Their results are in the journal Cell Chemical Biology.
Electron microscopes are tools that scientists use to see some of the smallest possible details, such as individual subsections of cells. Electron microscopes can produce images that are thousands of times more magnified than light microscopes.
Electron microscopes use a beam of electrons to map a sample. The electrons interact with the sample and then hit a detector, which measures the intensity of any electrons that hit it. That information can then be used to recreate a detailed image of whatever the microscope is looking at.
Because electron detectors work this way, the end product of an electron microscope is data that's visually mapped in grayscale. It can be difficult to make out important features from a monocolor image, so a group of researchers at the University of California, San Diego developed a way to add some color.
The team used various lanthanide metals like lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium to "paint" different components inside cells. They then attached a new kind of detector to their electron microscope that could detect the differences between those elements. These differences are rendered as colors.
This isn't the same as a color photograph, of course, but it gives scientists an extra dimension of information when using electron microscopes. Researchers can now more easily identify small structures inside cells, which will make for better observations and new discoveries in the future.