Collin Arocho
11 December 2019

Researchers at Delft University of Technology have successfully established a new method for microscopy. The new process was created by combining two existing super-resolution techniques – single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) and structured illumination microscopy (SIM) – a feat that was long-thought to be technically impossible. This combined method enables research to visualize the tiny components of living cells better than ever before, opening the window to new insights in healthcare.

Postdoc Taylor Hinsdale (left), PhD candidate Rasmus Thorsen (middle) and PhD candidate Jelmer Cnossen (right) at the new microscopy setup. Credit: Delft University of Technology

Super-resolution microscopy is a groundbreaking technology that allows researchers to look inside living cells. It makes use of the fluorescent proteins found in jellyfish and other creatures. Researchers use gene editing to attach these fluorescent proteins to molecules. Shining a laser on such a protein causes it to emit a little bit of light soon after. Sensors then capture the light signals and, aided by algorithms that filter the valuable data out of the noise, researchers can use this data to build up a picture.

“The development of super-resolution microscopy is seen as a big leap forward because ordinary optical microscopes can create images on a scale of about half a micron,” says TU Delft researcher Sjoerd Stallinga. “With super-resolution microscopy, you can do that ten times better.”