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Xu Laboratory of vEM

Our primary research interest is transformative instrumentation development. At the forefront of volume Electron Microscopy (vEM), we aim to develop next generation technologies to enable discoveries from engineering to life science to clinical applications.

Research Landmarks

We have demonstrated the first complete pipeline from high-resolution large volume imaging to subsequent analyses to biological/medical discoveries, representing the beginning of a new field of high-resolution large volume electron microscopy to reveal the structure-function relationships in biology.

The largest and most detailed brain connectome to date—Drosophila “hemi-brain” connectome

This Drosophila “hemi-brain” connectome consisting of ~11x106 µm3 tissue volume and 13 “hotknife” tabs was imaged with 8-nm voxels using two enhanced FIB-SEM systems in parallel for two years at the Janelia Research Campus of HHMI. (Scheffer et al., eLife 2020).

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3D whole cell imaging at the finest isotropic resolution

Higher resolution further improves the interpretation of otherwise ambiguous details. We further advanced the enhanced FIB-SEM technology and created the first open-access 3D atlas of whole cells and tissues (OpenOrganelle) at the finest isotropic resolution of 4-nm voxels (Xu et al., Nature 2021).

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The first 3D reconstructions of hepatic cells at various physiological and pathological states

Through our 3D FIB-SEM imaging of large intact liver tissues under different nutritional states, Hotamışlıgil Lab at Harvard was the first to link liver subcellular architecture to metabolic function, and showed that recovery of structural organization was correlated with restored function (Parlakgül et al., Nature 2022).

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The first comprehensive 3D visualization of a T cell attaching a cancer cell

In collaboration with the Mellman Lab at Genentech Inc., we reported the first comprehensive 3D FIB-SEM datasets of a T cell attacking a cancer cell, providing a unique and complete map of the complex membrane topology at the interface between the T cell and target (Ritter et al., Science 2022, Cover).

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The first whole cell correlative cryogenic super-resolution and 3D FIB-SEM imaging pipeline

Combined with cryogenic super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, we established the first whole cell cryo-correlative imaging pipeline that enabled multicolor three-dimensional nanoscale visualization of proteins in the context of global ultrastructure (Hoffman et al., Science 2020, cover).

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