Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A new fluorescent sensor combined with super-resolution microscopy means mitochondria can be seen at work

24 September 2019

Light the Fuse

Modern microscopy has made huge steps in picturing small things. But some of life’s structures are sometimes too fragile, or erratic, or simply just too tiny to follow under a microscope. Mitochondria – the mini factories that provide our cells with energy and heat – have thin ‘ultrastructures’ missed by many microscopes. Here the fragile architecture is highlighted by a new fluorescent sensor – stable enough to withstand the high-powered laser pulses used in stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy so they can be watched over time. Later in the video, concertina-like folds in the inner membranes of mitochondria, known as cristae, fuse together before they self-destruct. Being able to watch these important organelles – rather than taking static pictures – may allow scientists to test drugs towards mitochondrial disease, all while discovering more about how our biological power stations work.

Written by John Ankers

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