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The Nanoscopy Nobel

A trio of researchers has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work developing nanoscopy.

The Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry's Stefan Hell, Eric Betzig from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm, and Stanford University's William Moerner are being honored "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy,” according to the Nobel committee. Such microscopy enables researchers to examine, for instance, cellular structures at the molecular level, beyond the limit of optical microscopy.

In particular, Hell developed a method called stimulated emission depletion that uses two laser beams, one that encourages fluorescent molecules to fluoresce while the other cancels out that fluorescence in all but a nanometer-sized area that is then scanned to produce an image.

Meanwhile, Betzig and Moerner, working separately, came up single-molecule microscopy that relies on turn on and off the fluorescence of individual molecules while an area is scanned multiple times to make a composite picture.

The researchers have been applying their approaches to examine brain synapses, proteins involved in Huntington's disease, and cell division in embryos, the New York Times adds.

"Biology has turned into chemistry,” Sven Lidin, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry and a professor at Lund University tells the Times. "Chemistry has turned into biology.”