PerspectiveBiophysics

Flipping nanoscopy on its head

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 582-584
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5409

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Summary

About the smallest object we can see with the naked eye is our own hair. With a magnifying glass, we can see about 10 times better, and light microscopy, until relatively recently, could resolve features about 300 times thinner than human hair (∼250 nm). Recent developments in fluorescence “nanoscopy” made it possible to routinely image cellular structures at 20- to 30-nm resolution (1), but a gap remained at the molecular scale: Most proteins are smaller than 5 nm across. On page 606 of this issue, Balzarotti et al. (2) report a new concept in nanoscopy, termed MINFLUX, that achieves the true molecular resolution (2 to 3 nm) and dramatically reduces the number of photons required by “flipping” a common wisdom in nanoscopy on its head.