Microscopy is an essential technique in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The microscopes used today are powerful instruments that allow doctors and scientists to see intracellular details at up to 100X magnification – a resolution far too high to be seen with the naked eye. This information is crucial to understanding the structure and function of cells and tissues, and in helping clinicians decide on the best course of treatment for patients.
In addition to their use in diagnostics, microscopes also play a role in the study of diseases and the development of new treatments. By studying the structure and function of cells and tissues at a microscopic level, scientists can gain a better understanding of how diseases develop and how they can be treated. This research can lead to the development of new drugs and therapies for a wide range of diseases.
Trade-off between the big picture and the smallest details
While microscopes are crucial in disease diagnosis, their function is limited. These instruments have an intrinsic trade-off between the field of view and the image resolution. The field of view refers to the size of the area that can be seen through the microscope, while the resolution refers to the level of detail that can be seen in the image. A wider field of view allows the user to see more of the sample at once, but at the cost of reduced resolution. This is because the microscope’s objective lens, which determines the field of view, also determines the image’s resolution. A lens with a wider field of view will have a lower numerical aperture, which reduces the ability of the lens to resolve fine details.
A larger field of view is typically achieved by using a lower-magnification objective lens, which has a lower resolving power and thus cannot produce as detailed of an image. Conversely, a smaller field of view can be achieved by using a higher-magnification objective lens, which has a higher resolving power and can produce a more detailed image. However, this comes at the expense of the amount of the sample that can be seen at once.
The widest field of view allows lab experts to cover the widest area, enabling them to understand the context of the cell in a sample, but does not allow them to see the highest detail, potentially missing critical information. On the other hand, the narrowest field of view captures the highest detail at the expense of wide area coverage.
In other words, there is a trade-off between the field of view and resolution in microscopy. A wider field of view comes at the expense of reduced resolution, and vice versa. This means that the user must carefully consider their needs when choosing a microscope, and decide whether a wide field of view or high resolution is more important for their particular application.
This paradigm has plagued laboratory experts for years. While solutions have been developed to digitize the process of microscopy, no solution has yet achieved the ability to view the highest level of detail at the widest field of view.
Semi-digital microscopy solutions
An early step in the right direction was the development of semi-digital solutions. A semi-digital microscope is a microscope that combines traditional optical microscopy with digital imaging technology. This allows the user to view the sample through the microscope eyepieces as well as on a computer screen or other digital display. Semi-digital microscopes typically have a camera that is attached to the microscope, which captures the image and sends it to the computer for display.
One advantage of semi-digital microscopy is that it allows the user to view the sample on a larger screen, which can make it easier to see details and analyze the image. It also allows the user to save and share the images, and to perform image processing and analysis on the computer.
One potential disadvantage of semi-digital microscopy is that the added digital components can add complexity and cost to the workflow, instead of making it smoother. Overall, semi-digital microscopy solutions can provide a good compromise between the convenience and flexibility of digital imaging and the high-resolution capabilities of traditional optical microscopy.
Fully digital workflow solutions
In a fully digital workflow solution for diagnostic laboratories, the limitations of manual microscopy are overcome. This primarily means that laboratory experts no longer need to choose between the field of view and resolution, and can see both simultaneously. Digital workflow solutions also ease the workload of laboratory staff, and allow for remote review and collaboration through the hospital’s secure network.
Like many industries, laboratory diagnostics is moving towards a digital overhaul. This has many benefits and advantages to hospital systems and healthcare networks. Ultimately, digitizing and automating part or all of the diagnostic process will enable patients to receive diagnoses, and by extension, treatment, faster and more efficiently, leading to better clinical outcomes.