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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2010 Apr;72(1):1-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2010.00837.x. Epub 2010 Feb 19.

Advanced imaging techniques for assessment of structure, composition and function in biofilm systems.

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Department of River Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Magdeburg, Germany.


Scientific imaging represents an important and accepted research tool for the analysis and understanding of complex natural systems. Apart from traditional microscopic techniques such as light and electron microscopy, new advanced techniques have been established including laser scanning microscopy (LSM), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM). These new techniques allow in situ analysis of the structure, composition, processes and dynamics of microbial communities. The three techniques open up quantitative analytical imaging possibilities that were, until a few years ago, impossible. The microscopic techniques represent powerful tools for examination of mixed environmental microbial communities usually encountered in the form of aggregates and films. As a consequence, LSM, MRI and STXM are being used in order to study complex microbial biofilm systems. This mini review provides a short outline of the more recent applications with the intention to stimulate new research and imaging approaches in microbiology.

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