Above is a 3-D video of real, living cells dividing.
The video itself shows an embryo of the roundworm C. elegans, which researchers often use to study genetics and development. The green fluorescence shows where DNA is, while the red fluorescence mostly indicates the cells' membranes.
To create the video, researchers modified a lattice light sheet microscope into one that can image living cells in 3-D with astonishingly high speed and resolution. The paper demonstrating the microscope's impressive abilities was published today in the journal Science.
Past microscopes have had trouble imaging over longer time periods because the strong light required ended up damaging live cells. One improvement that makes the new scope work is that it spreads the light out so that it ends up being less toxic.
Now, biologists will be able to observe living cells — and even single proteins — tracking them over longer time periods, while still seeing them very clearly.
All different kinds of microscopes have made astonishing advances over the past few decades. Here's a video about the smallest things we can see: