Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Seeing the Unseeable

DNA fragments highlight molecule positions. DNA microscopy gives a super detailed 'look' inside cells

07 September 2019

Seeing the Unseeable

There’s more to life than meets the eye. That’s partly because our eyes aren’t designed to detect the tiny wonders of the microscopic world. The molecular activity underpinning all life is driven by chemical interactions, rather than visual cues, so researchers keen to get a look have developed a new tool that uses DNA – our genetic code – to help visualise life the way our cells see it. Tiny chunks of DNA are inserted into cells as molecular markers, which then bind to particular parts of the cells’ genetic code. These fragments latch onto other sections, forming molecules that can be collected and decoded to reveal their relative positions, showing how and where interactions happened. Pinpointing this activity allows researchers to locate individual genetic segments (coloured in a cell culture, pictured), which will ultimately help investigate how cells interact, and even identify diseased or dangerous cells, like cancers.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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