I wanted to note (with surprise!) that one of this year’s Nobel laureates actually showed up in the comments section of the post I wrote about him. You’d think his schedule would be busier at the moment (!), but here’s what he had to say:
A friend pointed this site/thread out to me. I apologize if I was unclear in the interview. #3 and #32 have it right — I have too much respect for you guys, and don’t deserve to be considered a chemist. My field is entirely dependent upon your good works, and I suspect I’ll be personally more dependent upon your work as I age.
Cheers, Eric Betzig
And it’s for sure that most of the readers around here are not physicists nor optical engineers, too! I think science is too important for food fights about whose part of it is where – we’re all working on Francis Bacon’s program of “the effecting of all things possible”, and there’s plenty for everyone to do. Thanks very much to Betzig for taking the time to leave the clarification.
With that in mind, I was looking this morning at the various tabs I have open on my browser for blogging subjects, and noticed that one of them (from a week or so back) was a paper on super-resolution fluorescent probes. And it’s from one of the other chemistry Nobel winners this year, William Moerner at Stanford! Shown is the rhodamine structure that they’re using, which can switch from a nonfluorescent state to a highly fluorescent one. Moerner and his collaborators at Kent State investigated a series of substituted variants of this scaffold, and found one that seems to be nontoxic, very capable of surface labeling of bacterial cells, and is photoswitchable at a convenient wavelength. (Many other photoswitchable probes need UV wavelengths to work, which bacteria understandably don’t care for very much).
Shown below the structure drawing is an example of the resolution this probe can provide, using Moerner’s double-helix point-spread-function, which despite its name is not an elaborate football betting scheme. That’s a single cell of Caulobacter crescentus, and you can see that the dye is almost entirely localized on the cell surface, and that ridiculously high resolutions can be obtained. Being able to resolve features inside and around bacterial cells is going to be very interesting in antibiotic development, and this is the kind of work that’s making it possible.
Oh, and just a note: this is a JACS paper. A chemistry Nobel laureate’s most recent paper shows up in a chemistry journal – that should make people happy!