Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy is a powerful super-resolution microscopy technique that enables observation of macromolecular complexes and sub-cellular structures with spatial resolution well below the diffraction limit. However, resolution in the double-digit nanometer range can be obtained only using high intensity depletion laser, at the cost of increased photo-damage, which significantly limits STED applications in live specimens. To minimize this, we use the separation by lifetime tuning (SPLIT) technique, in which phasor analysis is used to efficiently distinguish photons emitted from the center and from the periphery of the excitation spot of a STED microscope. Thus, it can be used to improve the resolution without increasing the STED beam intensity. Our approach utilizes a combination of pulsed excitation and pulsed depletion lasers to record the time-resolved photons by FastFLIM. The photons stream are successively analyzed using the SPLIT technique, demonstrating that the resolution improves without increasing the depletion laser intensity.
If a scanning illumination spot is combined with a detector array, we acquire a 4 dimensional signal. Unlike confocal microscopy with a small pinhole, we detect all the light from the object, which is particularly important for fluorescence microscopy, when the signal is weak. The image signal is basically a cross-correlation, and is highly redundant. It has more than sufficient information to reconstruct an improved resolution image. A 2D image can be generated from the measured signal by pixel reassignment. The result is improved resolution and signal strength, the system being called image scanning microscopy. A variety of different signal processing techniques can be used to predict the reassignment and deconvolve the partial images. We use an innovative single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) array detector of 25 detectors (arranged into a 5× 5 matrix). We can simultaneously acquire 25 partial images and process to calculate the final reconstruction online.
Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy is a powerful bio-imaging technique since it provides molecular spatial resolution whilst preserving the most important assets of fluorescence microscopy. When combined with twophoton excitation (2PE) microscopy (2PE-STED), the sub-diffraction imaging ability of STED microscopy can be achieved also on thick biological samples. The most straightforward implementation of 2PE-STED microscopy is obtained by introducing a STED beam operating in continuous wave (CW) into a conventional Ti:Sapphire based 2PE microscope (2PE-CW-STED). In this implementation, an effective resolution enhancement is mainly obtained implementing a time-gated detection scheme, which however can drastically reduce the signal-to-noise/background ratio of the final image. Herein, we combine the lifetime tuning (SPLIT) approach with 2PE-CW-STED to overcome this limitation. The SPLIT approach is employed to discard fluorescence photons lacking super-resolution information, by means of a pixel-by-pixel phasor approach. Combining the SPLIT approach with image deconvolution further optimizes the signal-to-noise/background ratio.
Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy is a powerful super-resolution microscopy technique that enables observation of macromolecular complexes and sub-cellular structures with spatial resolution below the diffraction limit. The spatial resolution of STED is limited by power of the depletion laser at the specimen plane. Higher depletion laser power will improve resolution, but at the cost of increased photo-bleaching, photo-toxicity, and anti-stoke emission background. This degrades the signal-to-noise ratio, and can significantly limit STED applications in living specimens. Here, we present an efficient multi-color STED microscopy method based on the digital frequency domain fluorescence lifetime imaging (FastFLIM) and the phasor plots. Our approach utilizes a combination of pulsed excitation and pulsed depletion lasers to record the time-resolved photons by FastFLIM. We demonstrate that the resolution is improved without increasing the depletion laser power by digital separation of the depleted species from the partially depleted species based on their different decay kinetics. We show the utility of this novel STED method applied in both fixed and live cellular samples, and also show its application to fluorescence lifetime correlation spectroscopy (FLCS) measurements. By combining fluorophores with different fluorescence lifetimes, we simultaneously record two-color STED images of cells labeled with Atto655 and Alexa647 in a single scan by using a single pair of excitation and depletion lasers. This novel approach shortens the data acquisition time while minimizing the photo-toxicity caused when using two separate depletion lasers.