Light microscopy is a key tool in cell biology whose principle benefit is to provide information about the location of macromolecules within cells and other specimens. Light microscopes can be used to observe fluorescent dyes staining many different macromolecules within the specimen, making it easy to see where they are in relation to one another. Living specimens can be stained in the same way, so the movement of cells and macromolecules can be followed using time-lapse microscopy.
Despite its advantages the resolution of light microscopy is limited by diffraction to about 250 nanometres. Super-resolution microscopy techniques break this limit in several ways and can now allow light microscopy at higher resolutions, bridging the gap between light and electron microscopy.
In 2014, as a result of joint funding from UCL and the Medical Research Council, the light microscopy facility was extended to include super-resolution microscopes. Microscopy staff members contribute directly to research by assisting in experimental strategy and design, investigating developments in methods and technology and by devising and carrying out procedures that require expert skills.
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