Bug in the system? Micro-CT scans illuminate insects

A team of researchers have created a novel imaging technique for the tiniest of patients—in this case, insects just few millimeters in length.

Joanna Konopka, a PhD candidate at Western University in London, Ontario, began exploring for a technique that allowed scientists to examine living samples, but most used dead insects or killed them during the process.

“We essentially had snapshots, moments in time, when what we needed were dynamic images of insects’ internal development,” she said. “We thought, what would happen if we tried to image them live?”

Konopka worked with Danny Poinapen, a biophysicist at Robarts Research Institute, to develop a technique to immobilize insects with carbon dioxide during a CT scan. These “micro-CT scans” could show detail to 20 microns, while highlighting details such as organs and reproductive systems.

“It’s a great example of how the interdisciplinary environment can benefit everyone’s research,” Poinapen said. “In our micro-CT lab, we know a lot about small-animal imaging—but knew very little about insects or our capacity to live-scan them until we teamed up with our biology colleagues.”

Click here for a CT scan of an armyworm.

Click here for a CT scan of a Colorado potato beetle.

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