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If you wish to keep the cells alive, then a light microscope is the right tool to observe with. Light microscopes transmit light through the materials being viewed, and then through a set of lenses that magnify and focus the image. Because the light can get hot, care must be taken to keep the cells wet while you are observing them. A variety of stains are available to accent certain features of the cell or increase contrast of the view overall; however many of these stains are toxic and will kill the cells. Because the light is transmitted through the specimen, this type of microscope works best with materials that are naturally transparent or are very small or thin.
Electron microscopes get much higher magnification than light microscopes do, but they require that the cells undergo a stabilization process that will kill them; therefore electron microscopes can only give you a "snapshot" type view of the cells.
A compound light microscope is effective for viewing living cells.
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