Researchers at the University of Gothenburg can now track microplankton life at the individual level. This is done with holograms created in digital microscopes using Artificial Intelligence (AI), so says the university in a press release.

Plankton are one of the most important organisms on Earth. More than half of all the world’s oxygen is produced by phytoplankton in the oceans. Yet knowledge about these lifeforms is limited, mainly due to their size. Until now. “I had to study microplankton at the group level, but thanks to this new AI based holographic microscope I can see how individual microplanktons move, eat, grow and reproduce,” says Erik Selander, marine biologist at the University of Gothenburg.

Much faster

The method uses LED light to analyse microplankton in holographic microscopes and this ensures that the organisms remain unaffected during the process. “By combining holographic microscopy with AI, now we can simultaneously monitor what is happening with a large collection of microplankton cells at a single cell-level, which was a challenge before”, so says Harshith Bachimanchi, doctoral student in physics at the University of Gothenburg.

“Though the technique is demonstrated with marine microorganisms, it is quite universal in approach and can be applied to any microscopic lifeform. And by enclosing the cells in miniatured glass wells, we can follow the growth dynamics and swimming behaviours of cells, throughout their life cycle from hours to days,” says Bachimanchi.

Holographic microscopy also offers a fast and inexpensive method for counting, weighing and sizing cells, or other particles, in a solution.

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