Ticks Survive Live Scan With Scanning Electron Microscope

Posted on March 22, 2012

Conventional canning electron microscope (SEM) is not considered a good tool to observe living organisms because of the exposure to high vacuum pressure and electron beam radiation. However, ticks survived being scanned after a 30 minute observation in a SEM in an experiment conducted by Yasuhito Ishigaki from Kanazawa Medical University and reported in PLoS One.

Here we attempted SEM observations of live ticks. During 1.5�10−3 Pa vacuum pressure and electron beam irradiation with accelerated voltages (2�5 kV), many ticks remained alive and moved their legs. After 30-min observation, we removed the ticks from the SEM stage; they could walk actively under atmospheric pressure. When we tested 20 ticks (8 female adults and 12 nymphs), they survived for two days after SEM observation. These results indicate the resistance of ticks against SEM observation. Our second survival test showed that the electron beam, not vacuum conditions, results in tick death. Moreover, we describe the reaction of their legs to electron beam exposure. These findings open the new possibility of SEM observation of living organisms and showed the resistance of living ticks to vacuum condition in SEM. These data also indicate, for the first time, the usefulness of tick as a model system for biology under extreme condition.
The ticks moved their legs during the experiment. The researchers say this could be because they are responding to the irradiation. Take a look:

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