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HHMI Janelia’s Eric Betzig Shares 2014 Nobel Prize In Chemistry

Sunday, October 12, 2014  
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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Eric Betzig, a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, and William Moerner of Stanford University 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 groundbreaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.

In what has become known as nanoscopy, scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain; they can track proteins involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases as they aggregate; they follow individual proteins in fertilized eggs as these divide into embryos.

Examples of methods of super-resolution imaging include photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), developed in 2006 by Betzig and Harald Hess, scientists at Janelia and by Samuel Hess at the University of Maine; stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), developed by HHMI investigator Xiaowei Zhuang at Harvard University; stimulated emission depletion (STED) by Stefan Hell at Max Planck; and saturated structured illumination microscopy (SSIM) by the late Mats Gustafsson at Janelia and the University of California, San Francisco.

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