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Researchers are first to see DNA”blink”

Researchers are first to see DNA”blink”

Vadim Backman and Hao Zhang, nanoscale imaging experts at Northwestern University, have developed a new imaging technology that is the first to see DNA “blink,” or fluoresce. The tool enables the researchers to study individual biomolecules as well as significant global patterns of gene expression, which could yield insights into cancer.

Backman discussed the tool and its applications — including the new concept of macro genomics, a technology that aims to regulate global patterns of gene expression without gene editing — at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston.

The Northwestern tool features six-nanometer resolution and is the first to break the 10-nanometer resolution threshold. It can image DNA, chromatin and proteins in cells in their native states, without the need for labels.

“People have overlooked this natural effect because they didn’t question conventional wisdom,” said Backman, the Walter Dill Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. “With our super-resolution imaging, we found that DNA and other biomolecules do fluoresce, but only for a very short time. Then they rest for a very long time, in a ‘dark’ state. The natural fluorescence was beautiful to see.”

Current technology for imaging DNA and other genetic material relies on special fluorescent dyes to enhance contrast when macromolecules are imaged. These dyes may perturb cell function, and some eventually kill the cells — undesirable effects in scientific studies.

In contrast, the Northwestern technique, called spectroscopic intrinsic-contrast photon-localization optical nanoscopy (SICLON), allows researchers to study biomolecules in their natural environment, without the need for these fluorescent labels.

Source: www.technology.org


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