Biological serial block face scanning electron microscopy at improved z-resolution based on Monte Carlo model

Q. He, M. Hsueh, G. Zhang, D. C. Joy & R. D. Leapman - National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, NIH, Bethesda, USA; Gatan, Inc., Pleasanton, USA; Department of Material Science and Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA

Serial block-face electron microscopy (SBEM) provides nanoscale 3D ultrastructure of embedded and stained cells and tissues in volumes of up to 107 µm3. In SBEM, electrons with 1–3 keV energies are incident on a specimen block, from which backscattered electron (BSE) images are collected with xy resolution of 5–10 nm in the block-face plane, and successive layers are removed by an in situ ultramicrotome. Spatial resolution along the z-direction, however, is limited to around 25 nm by the minimum cutting thickness. To improve the z-resolution, we have extracted depth information from BSE images acquired at dual primary beam energies, using Monte Carlo simulations of electron scattering. The relationship between depth of stain and ratio of dual-energy BSE intensities enables us to determine 3D structure with a ×2 improvement in z-resolution. We demonstrate the technique by sub-slice imaging of hepatocyte membranes in liver tissue.

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