Tape Collecting Ultramicrotome

For High Resolution Array Tomography of Biological Tissues by Early Adopter Sophisticated Users

  • Manufactured under license issued by Harvard University.
  • Based on Automatic Tape Collecting Ultramicrotome developed by Professor Jeff Lichtman, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the Harvard University Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
  • Thousands of Ultra-thin sections in the range 30-50nm are automatically collected on 8mm wide Kapton tape for later transfer to 4” silicon wafers (4” diameter silicon discs) and subsequent SEM electron imaging.

The ATUM system

The ATUMtome is a unique ultramicrotome for collecting sections on a continuous tape. Serial sections of resin-embedded specimens are cut with a diamond knife. As the sections float off on the surface water in the knife trough, they are picked up by the moving tape of the ATUM.

Researchers cut the long rolls of tape into shorter lengths and mount them on silicon wafers. The wafers are imaged with a scanning electron microscope using either secondary electron or backscattered electron imaging.

This automated serial sectioning system is unique because it allows collection and storage of large numbers of serial sections on tapes and wafers. Hundreds to thousands of serial sections can be images and then wafer libraries archived for future studies.

ATUMtome consists of :

  • ATUM section collecting device with PC, software, automatic water trough filler
  • PT-PCZ Ultramicrotome
  • PT attachment fixture with X-Y-Z positioners
  • 60617-SR air activated antivibration table, compressor, ECC Environmental Control Chamber, Ergo lab chair
  • 4mm Diamond Knife with large water trough

Ultramicrotome unique

ATUMtome est un ultramicrotome unique permettant de collecter des sections de coupes sériées automatiquement, de façon continue sur un ruban.

Les spécimens enrobés en résine sont coupés en série avec un couteau diamant ultrafine, large lame. Les sections flottantes à la surface du réservoir du couteau sont ensuite collectées sur une bande mobile rotative et conditionnées sous forme de rouleaux. Ces rouleaux sont ensuite découpés en bande et montés sur des Wafers Silicium de 4 pouces de diamètre.

Les supports sont ensuite imagés au sein d’un MEB en modes « électron secondaire » ou « rétrodiffusé ». Il permet la collecte et le stockage d’un grand nombre de coupes sériées en ruban ou sur wafer sans les détruire.

Des centaines de milliers de coupes peuvent donc être imagées et archivées sur Wafers pour de futures études.


The ATUMtome can be used for a range of studies including tracking neurons through brain tissue, 3-D ultrastructural localization of specific proteins within cells, reconstructing the 3-D structures of small organisms and correlating antigen locations through 3-D space.

In addition to standard serial section imaging, the sections can be immunolabeled multiple times for examination under epifluorescence illumination in light microscopy and subsequent scanning electron microscopy (SEM) examination. Utilizing the epiflourescence technique, the ATUM can assist in tracking nano- particles inside organs or tumors and examine their locations using organelle- specific fluorescent markers.

In material science, the ATUM is an exellent approach for examining multi- component fluorescent polymers.

In short, by increasing the volume and efficiency in obtaining sample sections, scientists will find the ATUM an exciting tool — especially for those who could not previously perform 3-D reconstruction due to the impractical amount of time it took to handle a large number of sections.

Connectomics: Jeff Lichtman at TEDxCaltech

Jeff Lichtman is Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard.

He received an AB from Bowdoin (1973), and an M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis (1980) where he worked for 30 years before moving to Cambridge (2004). He is a member of Harvard’s newly established Center for Brain Science. Jeff’s research interests revolve around the question of how mammalian brain circuits are physically altered by experiences, especially in early life. He has focused on the dramatic re-wiring of neural connections in early postnatal development. More recently his research has focused on developing new electron microscopy methods to map the entire wiring diagram of the developing and adult brain.

One of the principal aims of this “connectomics” approach is to uncover the ways information is stored in neural networks.

The Human Connectome Project: creating a complete roadmap of the brain

Drawing inspiration from the Human Genome Project, neuroscientists in the US want to map all the neural pathways in the human brain, revealing for the first time the physical structure of individual memories and even the faulty wiring that may underlie some psychiatric conditions.

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