Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fibres in Focus
06 May 2012

Fibres in Focus

Under an ordinary microscope the fine structure of a cell is nothing but a blur. Tendrils and tubes that define its shape and steer its movements are too delicate to be discerned. ‘Super-resolution’ microscopes bring these structures into focus. They combine thousands of frames capturing individual molecules, in a single image. To peer deeper into this kidney cell, scientists used a technique called stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM). Objects of interest – in this case a protein called actin involved in cell movement – are tagged with fluorescent markers, which light up under laser light. This composite image is formed from 230,000 frames and is detailed enough to illuminate individual actin fibres, which are less than a millionth of a centimetre thick. Such high resolution can reveal the effects of a disease or a genetic fault in the finest detail, which could better inform decisions about treatment.

Written by Hayley Birch

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