December 17, 2007, Gottingen, Germany--Carl Zeiss and physicists Dr. Eric Betzig and Dr. Harald Hess have signed an exclusive license agreement for commercialization of photo-activated localization (PAL) microscopy. This technique is expected to open a new world of fluorescence microscopy, demonstrating for the first time in cells a resolution of approximately 20 nm--an order of magnitude higher than conventional fluorescence techniques such as confocal microscopy achieve.
The technique invented by Dr. Betzig and Dr. Hess is so powerful that it allows scientists peering inside cells to discern the precise intracellular location of potentially each individual protein they are studying. Betzig and Hess began developing PAL microscopy as independent researchers and are now at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, USA.
"We were very excited by the potential of PAL microscopy from the moment we started to assess the technique. It not only offers the highest resolution available, but also achieves this in a very light-efficient manner," they said. "PAL microscopy has also been demonstrated on multi-colored samples, an essential prerequisite for accurate colocalization studies"
"With the integration of PAL microscopy, the affordable personal super-resolution system, into microscope systems from Carl Zeiss, our customers will get for the first time a complete picture of the ultrastructure underlying the cellular architecture and functioning. This truly reveals new insights into how life is organized at the subcellular level", said Dr. Bernhard Zimmermann, Senior Product Manager at Carl Zeiss MicroImaging.
Traditional optical microscopes could not resolve the organization of most small cellular compartments. Betzig and Hess overcame this limitation by photo-activating fluorescent molecules sparsely enough to ensure that individual activated molecules are further apart than the classical resolution limit. Thus, the molecules' positions can then be determined with high precision. Repetitive photo-activation and assembling all determined positions into a single image achieves a resolution comparable to an electron microscope. Moreover, PAL microscopy has the additional benefit of being specific to the fluorescently labeled proteins of interest and does not require cumbersome sample preparation.