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A twinkle of light in a microscope’s eye

A twinkle of light in a microscope’s eye

Researchers are using biological glow sticks and finely-tuned cameras to look deeper within cells.

Fireflies are easy to find at night — but not in the day. Their tails glow bright in the darkness. Yet, in sunshine, it’s difficult to compete with everything else. By using the same concept of pinpointing objects in the darkness with emitted light, fluorescence microscopy has helped scientists look inside cells for more than a century.

Unfortunately, that technology had a limit. Researchers could not look deep into proteins to see how the tiny molecular machines moved and interacted in living cells. Since proteins do many of a cell’s most crucial jobs — including fighting infections, carrying messages and initiating chemical reactions — poor image resolution has hindered the search for better medicines and keener insight into aging.

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