The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded for development of super resolution fluorescence microscopy

The past three decades have been marked by profound advancements in the field of cell biology. An increased focus on precisely studying structure and interaction at the molecular level has driven innovation and the development of powerful new tools for IF and other fluorescent microscopy based techniques.

Until very recently the ability to use light microscopy to study structure and function at nanometer levels of precision was blocked by the Abbe diffraction limit. This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who developed two novel techniques allowing researchers to overcome this age-old limitation.

Discovered by Ernst Abbe in 1873, the Abbe diffraction limit posits that the best resolution that can be obtained by any optical instrument using light in the visible spectrum is ~250nm. This has historically limited the ability of scientists attempting to use microscopy to study complex biological structures and interactions at the molecular level.

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared by Eric Betzig , Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner for development of two separate methods allowing researchers to overcome the Abbe diffraction limit and generate super-resolved micrographs.

Pioneered by Stefan W. Hell, STED achieves super resolution by utilizing one laser to stimulate emission in a small region of a sample while a second laser quenches emission in the surrounding sample. Using this method researchers can generate incredibly detailed micrographs with resolution 2 – 3 times better than those obtained from a conventional laser scanning confocal microscope.

NOTE: ChromoTek Chromobodies® like ABIN1478361, ABIN1478363, and ABIN1478635 allow researchers to use IF staining methods on live cells in culture. Used in conjunction with super resolution microscopy, Chromobodies provide an unprecedented opportunity to study complex molecular dynamics in living cells.

Single molecule microscopy was developed independently by both Erik Betzing and William E. Moerner. Single molecule microscopy utilizes short pulses from an excitation laser to randomly stimulate emission from individual, dispersed fluorescent molecules in a sample. By scanning the same sample many times and combining the micrographs researchers can produce images with exceptionally high resolution.

NOTE: Signal strength and photobleaching are a major concern in any fluorescent microscopy experiment, and can present particular trouble in low excitation imaging techniques like single molecule microscopy. Chromotek GFP and RFP Boosters (ABIN1092212 / ABIN1082215) are designed to give researchers the necessary signal strength and photostability for sensitive techniques like super resolution microscopy.

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