Confocal microscopy 3D imaging of diesel particulate matter

Miyashita, Lisa, Foley, Gary, Gill, Ian, Gillmore, Gavin, Grigg, Jonathan and Wertheim, David (2021) Confocal microscopy 3D imaging of diesel particulate matter. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 28, pp. 30384-30389. ISSN (print) 0944-1344


To date, diesel particulate matter (DPM) has been described as aggregates of spherule particles with a smooth appearing surface. We have used a new colour confocal microscope imaging method to study the 3D shape of diesel particulate matter (DPM); we observed that the particles can have sharp jagged appearing edges and consistent with these findings, 2D light microscopy demonstrated that DPM adheres to human lung epithelial cells. Importantly, the slide preparation and confocal microscopy method applied avoids possible alteration to the particles' surfaces and enables colour 3D visualisation of the particles. From twenty-one PM particles, the mean (standard deviation) major axis length was 5.6 (2.25) μm with corresponding values for the minor axis length of 3.8 (1.25) μm. These new findings may help explain why air pollution particulate matter (PM) has the ability to infiltrate human airway cells, potentially leading to respiratory tract, cardiovascular and neurological disease.

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