During the international congress “Biotechnology: state-of-the-art and future perspectives”, which took place in Moscow several weeks ago, Russian innovation has hit the headlines. A PhD student of the Institute of General Genetics had a poster presentation describing a revolutionary development, created and patented by the student together with his father, an acknowledged expert in microscopy – nanoscope, a fluorescent microscope having incredibly high resolution, not less than 20 nanometers.
Authors describe following technique for their innovation – first, subject of a research should be marked with a special fluorescent probe, which is not a common fluorescent stain, but chemically modified with two types of chemical groups. First group “locks” fluorescence, thus allowing the molecule to glow only after exposure to ultraviolet light, which kindles fluorescence of “unlocked” molecule. After that activated molecule glows when it is irradiated by laser, though its light fades with time. Second group allows stain molecule to build in cell membrane, for instance, or “attach” to a large molecule, which can be a protein. Researchers adjust time length and intensity of an ultraviolet flash for a number of activated molecules not to exceed 1-2 thousand for molecules to be detected separately. Such dyes already exist and can be purchased or synthesized.
Described preparations allow starting object observations. When a scientist irradiates his object fiirst with UV light and then with laser, he can observe a glowing dot, which fades quickly – a stain molecule bonded with the object. Authors suggest shooting scientific objects by means of highly sensitive EMCCD-camera recorder, which is ten times more sensitive than ordinary video camera.
These images show molecules as separate spots, allowing detection of their location with higher accuracy compared to simultaneous fluorescence of mentioned molecules. Specially developed sofware combines images, saved after every laser impulse, thus eliminating desired images from background signals. Authors suggest using second camera with focus displaced from the first one for making three dimensional images, received after computer data processing.
Nanoscope is inseparable with a computer, which stores data, arriving from one or two detectors after a series of laser impulses, providing a great increase in sensitivity and resolution of the device. Authors hope to “teach” nanoscope and its computer to detect and save images, received from free-moving objects. Computer will analyse tens of thousands of images, received from individual molecules and nanoparticles, looking like spots, then calculate coordinates of spots’ centres and come out with object’s image according millions of calculated coordinates.
Of course, any idea, no matter whether it was born in Russia or abroad, has to come a long way to its realization. Today all authors have is a concept and some details of future device and software, thus any partners and investors are welcome to contribute to flourishing of scientific thought.