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MRC scientists develop new giant lens


25 June, 2010


Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists have developed a microscope with a giant lens, known as the ‘Mesolens’, that can examine thousands of cells and the detail inside each cell at the same time. The microscope has been heralded as revolutionary by scientists and could transform how researchers observe living cells in the lab.

The microscope was engineered at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. The team, led by Dr William Amos FRS, developed the microscope as a response to a growing research need to examine larger and larger tissue samples, in particular early stage genetically modified mouse embryos. These 6mm embryos play a crucial step in the identification of future treatments for diseases such as cancer. With existing microscopes this can be a long and laborious process; however, with the Mesolens, researchers can now view these embryos instantly.


Dr William Amos FRS of the Medical Research Council says:

“We have worked for more than twenty years on the development of new optical systems for biomedical research. Our new microscope opens up many new possibilities for viewing large volumes of living tissue without sacrificing clarity or losing the ability to perceive depth, which has been a major problem with existing microscopes. We hope that researchers will be able to benefit from this new technology from next year.”


Visitors to the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, opening today at the South Bank Centre, London, are invited to use the new Mesolens to look at ‘high definition’ fleas, mice and human brain cells as they’ve never been seen before.

You can download images and video files of the images captured by the Mesolens here:




Notes to editors


1. Press preview of this exhibit and others on show: 15.00 – 17.00 Tuesday 22 June - please register your interest via the Royal Society press office.


2. General info:  The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. This year the exhibition is being held at Southbank as part of See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts to mark the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary.


3. The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. As we prepare for our 350th anniversary in 2010, we are working to achieve five strategic priorities, to:

  • Invest in future scientific leaders and in innovation
  • Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice
  • Invigorate science and mathematics education
  • Increase access to the best science internationally
  • Inspire an interest in the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery
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