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Nobel Prize for Chemistry for Super Resolution Microscopy

last modified Oct 16, 2014 04:24 PM
In October 8th 2014, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2014 to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy". For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation. Their ground-breaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.
Nobel Prize for Chemistry for Super Resolution Microscopy

Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner

Dr Stefanie Reichelt, head of light microscopy at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, uses these techniques in her work and was thrilled to hear they had been recognised by the Nobel.

"It's just changed so much in science - it's really beautiful," she told the BBC. "It opened up so many new fields and questions.

Hear the interview:

"Going down to the resolution limit, where you can see proteins interacting, DNA unfolding - if you go down to that level and you can watch this in live cells, that's such a leap forward. You almost don't need biochemistry anymore! Biochemistry is more abstract, because you have solutions and tubes and you deduce what is happening from that."

“It’s no exaggeration to say that super-resolution fluorescence microscopy has revolutionised imaging, so this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry is very well deserved. The resolution in microscopy had been limited to 200 nanometres – about the size of the smallest bacteria – for several hundred years. The new imaging developments give us a more than ten-fold increase in resolution and we can now see individual components of cells in great detail. But these are much more than just pretty images – at this resolution, we can begin to understand much more clearly what is happening in important biological processes.

“At CRUK CI, Fanni Gergely's group is studying the mechanisms behind cell division, including cellular components known as centrosomes. Since using the super-resolution imaging techniques, centrosomes, which previously were only visible as blobs, are now recognized as clearly-resolved interacting rings - and the exciting thing is that we can study these processes in live cells, too.


Research Groups who are developing super resolution imaging techniques in Cambridge:

  • David Klenermann:
  • Steven F. Lee:
  • Kevin O'Holleran:
  • Clemens Kaminski:
  • Nick Barry:
  • Alex Sossick: