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Three-dimensional coherent X-ray diffractive imaging of whole frozen-hydrated cells


A structural understanding of whole cells in three dimensions at high spatial resolution remains a significant challenge and, in the case of X-rays, has been limited by radiation damage. By alleviating this limitation, cryogenic coherent diffractive imaging (cryo-CDI) can in principle be used to bridge the important resolution gap between optical and electron microscopy in bio-imaging. Here, the first experimental demonstration of cryo-CDI for quantitative three-dimensional imaging of whole frozen-hydrated cells using 8 keV X-rays is reported. As a proof of principle, a tilt series of 72 diffraction patterns was collected from a frozen-hydrated Neospora caninum cell and the three-dimensional mass density of the cell was reconstructed and quantified based on its natural contrast. This three-dimensional reconstruction reveals the surface and internal morphology of the cell, including its complex polarized sub-cellular structure. It is believed that this work represents an experimental milestone towards routine quantitative three-dimensional imaging of whole cells in their natural state with spatial resolutions in the tens of nanometres.

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