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Super “Resolution”: Reflections on Microscopy in the New Year

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As we shake off the holidays, 2017 brings a new opportunity for personal reflection. For many trainees, it is also a great time to focus one’s professional goals, including those related to microbiology and microscopy. In celebration of the new year, I’d like to reflect on some of the advanced microscopy work of 2016, and offer some inspiration for the year ahead. As we welcome 2017, I encourage you to embrace complexity, mystery, and the small picture.

Resolution: Go on a blind date.

Inspiration: “Super-resolution Microscopy for Microbiology.”

Super-resolution imaging can aid in the discovery of cellular structures. For details that are not resolvable with phase contrast or fluorescence microscopy, several super-resolution methods are suitable for use in microbiological research. Three major categories of super-res imaging exist: photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), structured illustration microscopy (SIM), and stimulated emission-depletion (STED) microscopy. These techniques take advantage of the fluorescent labeling methods use in fluorescence light microscopy, as well as its live-cell compatibility—with the added benefit of a 10-50 nm resolution. In that way, it approaches the resolutions of electron microscopy. Photoactivatable and photoswitchable fluorophores allow discreet fluorescence to take place (e.g. one fluorophore at a time), and the positions of these fluorophores are localized with nanometer accuracy using computer algorithms.

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