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J Biomed Opt. 2001 Jul;6(3):277-86.

Second-harmonic imaging microscopy of living cells.

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Center for Biomedical Imaging Technology, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.


Second harmonic generation (SHG) has been developed in our laboratories as a high-resolution nonlinear optical imaging microscopy for cellular membranes and intact tissues. SHG shares many of the advantageous features for microscopy of another more established nonlinear optical technique: two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF). Both are capable of optical sectioning to produce three-dimensional images of thick specimens and both result in less photodamage to living tissue than confocal microscopy. SHG is complementary to TPEF in that it uses a different contrast mechanism and is most easily detected in the transmitted light optical path. It can be used to image membrane probes with high membrane specificity and displays extraordinary sensitivity in reporting membrane potential; it also has the ability to image highly ordered structural proteins without any exogenous labels.

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