Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
Dissecting the inner workings of a cell requires imaging methods with molecular specificity, molecular-scale resolution and dynamic imaging capability such that molecular interactions inside the cell can be directly visualized. Fluorescence microscopy is a powerful imaging modality for investigating cells largely owning to its molecular specificity and dynamic imaging capability. However, the spatial resolution of light microscopy, classically limited by the diffraction of light to a few hundred nanometers, is substantially larger than typical molecular-length scales in cells. Hence many subcellular structures and dynamics cannot be resolved by conventional fluorescence microscopy. We developed a super-resolution fluorescence microscopy method, stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), which breaks the diffraction limit. STORM uses single-molecule imaging and photo-switchable fluorescent probes to temporally separate the spatially overlapping images of individual molecules. This approach has allowed multicolor and three-dimensional imaging of living cells with nanometer-scale resolution and enabled discoveries of novel sub-cellular structures. In this talk, I will discuss the technological development and biological applications of STORM.