Researchers have developed a new fluorescence microscopy technique to dramatically enhance the resolution achievable when imaging intracellular structures. The technique uses the distortions created by a specimen to pinpoint the location of individual molecules, and thereby infer the location of intracellular structures. The technique could be particularly useful in studying neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Understanding the structural complexity of cells involved in disease is crucial to developing treatments. However, at the intracellular level, it has been difficult to accurately visualize small structures using fluorescence microscopy because of the distortion caused by light emitted by molecules within the specimen.
Now, researchers have turned this situation on its head, and are using the distortion produced by molecules within the specimen to plot their location, enabling significantly increased resolution. The fluorescence microscopy technique measures wavefront distortions induced by the specimen, either a cell or a tissue, directly from the signals generated by single molecules – tiny light sources attached to the cellular structures of interest. By knowing the distortion induced, they can pinpoint the positions of individual molecules at high precision and accuracy.