Higher throughput for EM is useful in many situations, be it processing multiple samples at the same time or imaging in larger projects, like volume EM or large area imaging.
Volume electron microscopy
Processes in life rarely occur in two dimensions, so three-dimensional EM or volume EM is especially helpful to understand the architecture of tissues or organisms. Most volume EM techniques can produce 3D data by imaging many subsequent sections of a sample, which are then reconstructed into a 3D representation for analysis.
Researchers in fields like cell biology and neurobiology rely heavily on volume EM to answer their research questions. Its high resolution is indispensable to visualize the nanoscale details that define individual cells. This also makes it a useful technique in the connectomics field, where the ability to resolve the intricate structures of neurons at nanometer-range resolution is indispensable to map the interactions between neurons in the brain.
The increased throughput of faster electron microscopes is highly beneficial for volume EM, as larger volumes can be imaged within a smaller amount of time. This opens the way to ever larger projects, like imaging an entire hemisphere or even entire brains for connectomics. At the same time, high-throughput imaging enables comparative studies, which were previously too time-consuming to be feasible.
Application: neurobiology, cell biology, histology, plant biology, biofilm analysis.
Large scale electron imaging
High-throughput electron microscopy is highly useful for large-scale electron microscopy, where high-resolution imaging is performed on large samples ranging from tissues or organs. Large-scale imaging data provides both nanoscale information to analyze subcellular details, but also the context needed to understand the distribution of cell types within tissues or organs.
High-throughput solutions enable a rapid, unbiased method of data collection, which is crucial for large-scale imaging. The throughput facilitates studies with larger sample sizes, comparisons between healthy and diseased material, and screening of drug treatments or mutants, all while retaining nanometer-range resolution.
Application: digital pathology, analysis of tissues, cells, biomaterials, soft matter
High-throughput imaging in facilities
Imaging facilities often handle material from many different researchers, each with a different research question. This presents logistical and biological challenges. Researchers face a high turnaround time of data since data collection is a time-consuming process. At the same time, the slow speed of the EM means that there is a limit to the sample size, which in turn presents a risk of underestimating the heterogeneity of samples.
Automated, high-throughput microscopy enables a fundamental shift in EM: samples can be imaged automatically at high speed, while region of interest (ROI) selection and data analysis can be performed offline (away from the microscope). Since a microscope operator is no longer needed to identify relevant biological structures at the microscope, many or larger samples can be imaged within the same amount of time. Through the increased throughput, it is possible to routinely image many samples while retaining the biological context.