Scanning confocal microscopy offers several potential advantages for light microscope studies of biological material. Foremost amongst these is the rejection of interfering signals from out-of-focus structures, which often seriously degrade images. The degradation in image quality with epifluorescence microscopy is particularly pronounced; an unfortunate situation, as this is one of the most commonly used techniques in biological research. Confocal imaging almost completely eliminates this problem and therefore promises to have a wide application in this area. We have developed a high-speed beam scanning confocal imaging system that can be used in conjunction with a conventional microscope, and have examined a variety of biological material using this system. In all cases we have found that confocal imaging gives a marked improvement in quality over conventional techniques. The improvement is particularly spectacular with thick specimens viewed with epifluorescence.
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