Microscopy techniques win Nobel Prize in chemistry

Guest post by Beth Mole

Fluorescence microscopy allowing researchers to see single molecules just a billionth of a meter across has been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Since the end of the 19th century, researchers had thought that the resolution of light microscopes would be limited by the wavelength of light, keeping the features inside living cells out of sight.

This year’s Nobel honors three researchers who independently found ways to break the limit. In 2000, Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany used a combination of lasers and fluorescent molecules to narrow the focus of microscopes enough to see inside living cells.

Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Va., and William E. Moerner of Stanford University worked independently to selectively switch on or off fluorescent light from individual molecules, allowing researchers to spotlight single molecules.

The methods have allowed researchers to watch neurons fire in the brain and track individual proteins in growing embryos.

A more in-depth story on the Nobel-winning research will be posted later today.

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