Seeing the unseen with 'super-resolution' fluorescence microscopy

December 16, 2008

Thanks to a new "super-resolution" fluorescence microscopy technique, Harvard University researchers have succeeded in resolving the features of cells as miniscule as 20-30 nanometers (nm), an order of magnitude smaller than conventional fluorescence light microscopy images, according to a presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) 48th Annual Meeting, Dec. 13-17, 2008, in San Francisco.

"Super resolution" microscopy techniques enable scientists to visualize cells laterally below 200-300 nm, which is the length scale of most intracellular structures and the level at which the cell gets most of its work done.

Harvard's "super-resolution" technique, developed by Bo Huang, Xioawei Zhuang and colleagues at the university, is called Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM).

It is one of several higher-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques that fundamentally surpass the diffraction "blind spot" of conventional light microscopes.

Because conventional light microscopes cannot resolve two objects closer than half the wavelength of the light, they produce images that appear blurry and overlap no matter how high the magnification.

According to the Harvard researchers, STORM can record light emitted from a single molecule in the sample.

Using probe molecules that can be "photoswitched" between a visible and an invisible state, STORM can determine the position of every molecule of interest and can then compile all the molecules' positions to define a structure.

Huang and colleagues have adapted STORM to study three-dimensional structures and can now visualize a whole cell with an axial resolution of 50-60 nm.

Multicolor imaging also has been achieved by using photoswitchable fluorophores made of combinatorial pairs of various activator dyes and reporter dyes. Multicolor, 3-D STORM is able to visualize detailed interactions between cell organelles and the cytoskeleton.

In brain tissue, the researchers used STORM to reveal the fine details in the synaptic structure of the olfactory system.

Source: American Society for Cell Biology

Explore further: Artificial moth eyes enhance the performance of silicon solar cells

Related Stories

Imaging glucose uptake activity inside single cells

July 17, 2015

Researchers at Columbia University have reported a new approach to visualize glucose uptake activity in single living cells by light microscopy with minimum disturbance. In a recent study published in Angewandte Chemie International ...

A most singular nano-imaging technique (Update)

July 16, 2015

Just as proteins are one of the basic building blocks of biology, nanoparticles can serve as the basic building blocks for next generation materials. In keeping with this parallel between biology and nanotechnology, a proven ...

New technique enables magnetic patterns to be mapped in 3-D

July 7, 2015

An international collaboration has succeeded in using synchrotron light to detect and record the complex 3-D magnetization in wound magnetic layers. This technique could be important in the development of devices that are ...

Recommended for you

Researchers build bacteria's photosynthetic engine

July 29, 2015

Nearly all life on Earth depends on photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen-producing plants and cyanobacteria perfected this process 2.7 billion years ago. But the first photosynthetic ...

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

Scientists unlock secrets of stars through aluminium

July 29, 2015

Physicists at the University of York have revealed a new understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars, providing insight into the role massive stars play in the evolution of the Milky Way and the origins of the Solar System.

Studies reveal details of error correction in cell division

July 29, 2015

Cell biologists led by Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with collaborators elsewhere, report an advance in understanding the workings of an error correction mechanism that helps cells detect and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.