Many of the secrets of cancer and other diseases lie in the cell's nucleus. But getting way down to that level -- to see and investigate the important genetic material housed there -- requires creative thinking and extremely powerful imaging techniques. Dr. Vadim Backman and Dr. 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 important global patterns of gene expression, which could yield insights into cancer. Dr. Backman was to discuss the tool and its applications -- including the new concept of macrogenomics, a technology that aims to regulate the global patterns of gene expression without gene editing – on Friday (February 17, 2017) at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston. The talk, entitled "Label-Free Super-Resolution Imaging of Chromatin Structure and Dynamics," is part of the symposium "Optical Nanoscale Imaging: Unraveling the Chromatin Structure-Function Relationship," which was to be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time February 17 in Room 206, Hynes Convention Center. The Northwestern tool features six-nanometer resolution and is the first to break the 10-nanometer resolution threshold. It tool image DNA, chromatin, and proteins in cells in their native states, without the need for labels. For decades, textbooks have stated that macromolecules within living cells, such as DNA, RNA and proteins, do not have visible fluorescence on their own. "People have overlooked this natural effect because they didn't question conventional wisdom," said Dr. Backman, the Walter Dill Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern.
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