Monday, 11 May, 2009
What blinking molecules reveal about cell structure
There has been a strong drive behind the development of high-resolution microscopic methods in recent years. Developers are aiming at achieving a high spatial resolution right down to the nano scale for making clear, precise images of very small, tightly packed molecules. A research group working with Professor Philip Tinnefeld of the Department of Physics of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich has now managed to develop fluorescent molecules that can be switched on and off on command using two opposite chemical processes. Unlike conventional methods, this mechanism even works in the presence of oxygen, and can be applied to a wide range of dyes. The method, which the developing researchers have dubbed blink microscopy, can therefore be used to observe even living cells, in order to discern the arrangements of very closely neighboring molecules. The new method could as well be valuable to nanotechnology, for developing precisely controlled electro-optical switch elements, for example. (PNAS Early Online Edition, 11. Mai 2009).