J Edwards, K Whitley, S Peneti, Y Cesbron, S Holden
Single molecule microscopy can reveal both sub-diffraction limited structures and molecular dynamics directly in living cells but, unsurprisingly, requires advanced microscopes to do so. Commercial microscopes are available that provide these capabilities but are expensive and inflexible. In comparison, home built systems are almost infinitely modifiable but require a significant level of expertise and time to create.
Open source microscopes have become increasingly popular as a way of reducing this initial setup barrier while retaining the flexibility of home built systems. However, open source systems have often focused more on this aim of accessibility at the expense of a full feature set.
In its base form, the LifeHack microscope is fully capable of SMLM and live cell imaging. Unlike commercial microscopes however, it is intended to be equally useful as a development platform from which to build specialised systems to solve cutting edge problems. In comparison to existing open source microscopes, the LifeHack is particularly advantageous for live cell imaging. This is due to its stable, super-resolution microscopy compatible, temperature control plus robust hardware autofocus/live drift correction in all 3 dimensions over a large depth range.
LifeHack has been constructed from commercially available and 3D printed parts to simplify the build process and comprehensive parts lists, CAD files, and build/setup instructions are available to allow straightforward construction of the microscope. The complete parts list can be purchased for approximately £150,000 (as of 2020).