Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) is a powerful research tool, but since it requires high vacuum conditions, the wet materials and biological samples must undergo a complex preparation that limits the application of SEM on this kind of specimen and often causes the introduction of artifacts. The introduction of Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM), working in gaseous atmosphere, represented a new perspective in biological research. Despite the fact that many biological applications have demonstrated the convenience of ESEM, the full potentialities of this technology are still under investigation. In this review, the exploration of the recent literature data confronted with the first results obtained in our experimental work suggest that ESEM represents an important extension of conventional scanning microscopy. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.