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Shine a Light: High-Resolution Microscopy and Imaging in Biology

Shine a Light
Reported by
Sarah Webb

Posted March 09, 2009


Innovations in light and electron microscopy and biological imaging are a foundation for experimental biology. At the January 29, 2009, meeting of the Soft Materials Discussion Group, scientists described new approaches for imaging cellular events and the contributions of existing methods on the front lines of epidemics.

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz of the National Institutes of Health began with a discussion of developments in photoactivatable protein technology. Biomedical engineer Maribel Vazquez of CUNY's City College described work on a nanomicrofluidic system that monitors both cellular movement and intracellular signaling in response to external factors. Charles Humphrey of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta described his work with negative stain transmission electron microscopy (TEM), a decades-old technique that is still the fastest way to identify emerging viral pathogens.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.


Web Sites

From HHMI: New Microscope Sharpens Scientists' Focus
The remarkable story of the development of PALM.

Careers at CDC: CDC Microscopics
A description of the microscopy facilities at CDC.


Egerton RF. 2008. Physical Principles of Electron Microscopy: An Introduction to TEM, SEM, and AEM. Springer, New York.

Kuo J, ed. 2007. Electron Microscopy: Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology). Humana Press, Totowa, New Jersey.


Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz

Betzig E, Patterson GH, Sougrat R, et al. 2006. Imaging intracellular fluorescent proteins at nanometer resolution. Science 313: 1642-1645.

Lippincott-Schwartz J, Manley S. 2009. Putting super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to work. Nat. Methods 6: 21–23. Full Text

Lippincott-Schwartz J, Patterson GH. 2003. Development and use of fluorescent protein markers in living cells. Science 300: 87-89.

Manley S, Gillette JM, Patterson GH, et al. 2008. High-density mapping of single-molecule trajectories with photoactivated localization microscopy. Nat. Methods 5: 155-157. Full Text

Patterson GH, Lippincott-Schwartz J. 2008. Fluorescent proteins for photoactivation experiments. Methods Cell Biol. 85: 45-61.

Patterson GH, Lippincott-Schwartz J. 2002. A photoactivatable GFP for selective photolabeling of proteins and cells. Science 297: 1873-1877.

Shtengel G, Galbraith JA, Galbraith, CG, et al. 2009. Interferometric fluorescent super-resolution microscopy resolves 3D cellular ultrastructure. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA published online before print February 6, 2009.

Subach FV, Patterson GH, Manley S, et al. 2009. Photoactivatable mCherry for high-resolution two-color fluorescence microscopy. Nat. Methods 6: 153-159.

Maribel Vazquez

Dudu V, Ramchadran M, Gilchrist ML, Holland EC, Vazquez M. 2008. Liposome delivery of quantum dots to the cytosol of live cells. J. Nanosci. Nanotechnol. 8: 2293-2300.

Charles Humphrey

Beniac DR, Andonov A, Grudeski E, Booth TF. 2006. Architecture of the SARS coronavirus prefusion spike. Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 13: 751-752.

Harris A, Cardone G, Winkler DC, et al. 2006. Influenza virus pleiomorphy characterized by cryoelectron tomography. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 103: 19123-19127. Full Text

Ksiazek TG, Erdman D, Goldsmith CS, et al. 2003. A novel coronavirus associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome. N. Engl. J. Med. 348: 1953-1966. Full Text

Yee EL, Jiang B, Kendall RS, et al. 2006. Group C rotavirus in a pediatric kidney transplant patient with diarrhea. J. Clin. Virol. 36: 306-308.


Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, PhD

National Institute of Child Health and Development
e-mail | web site | publications

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz is the chief of the section on organelle biology at the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University and completed postdoctoral research at NIH. Research in her laboratory focuses on the cellular activity of eukaryotic endomembrane system and the molecular details of its structure and function.

Maribel Vazquez, PhD

City College, City University of New York
e-mail | web site | publications

Maribel Vazquez is an associate professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering at City College of the City University of New York. She completed her MS and DSc degrees in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. From 1992 to 1995 she worked as a microcontamination and manufacturing engineer for Intel Corporation in Portland, Oregon.

Charles Humphrey, PhD

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
e-mail | web site | publications

Charles Humphrey is an electron microscopist in the Infectious Disease Pathology Branch of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has worked since 1983. He completed his PhD at Clemson University in South Carolina and postdoctoral research at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. His expertise is in negative stain transmission electron microscopy of gastrointestinal viruses.

Sarah Webb

Before hanging up her labcoat, Sarah Webb earned a PhD in bioorganic chemistry from Indiana University. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she writes about science, health, and technology for publications including Science, Science News, Discover, and Nature Reports Stem Cells.