09.10.2014

Argentine scientists work with one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry

The technology developed by the winners of the prize is available to the scientific community in our country through the National System for Microscopy and through the work of Argentine researchers

Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.

Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.

Prof. Stefan Hell, director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany; and the American Eric Betzig of The Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well as William Moerner, a professor of applied physics at The Stanford University Medical Center won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions in the field of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy through the development two types of nanometer-sized microscopes which bypassed the current technical limitations.

Prof. Stefan Hell keeps a close relationship with our country through various collaborations with Argentine scientists who worked and were trained by the German physicist. Fernando Stefani, current deputy director of the Research Center Bionanoscience under the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET-CIBION), keeps a close cooperation since 2011 as a research group associated with the department headed by the German scientist at the Institute Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. As part of that work, Argentine researchers conducted doctoral and postdoctoral studies in the Hell Department and even the teacher was providing training in CIBION during November 2013.

"The experience of working with Stefan Hell is excellent.His contribution to microscopy was a break in paradigm which opened possibilities never before conceived" remarked Dr. Stefani and he added "super resolution methodologies are the future of visualization through fluorescence and have already an impact on studies of cell biology and biomedicine". These techniques "provide unprecedented information on small subcellular structures such as mitochondria or axones- which were previously invisible through traditional microscopy" explained Stefani and he added "it is only a matter of time until nanoscopies become the standard of visualization through fluorescence".

From this year, CIBION has two super resolution microscopes open to the entire scientific community through the National System for Microscopy of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation. Stefani makes a great effort in the development and dissemination of fluorescence nanoscopies in Argentina and he explained that through cooperation with Prof. Hell "we are applying these methodologies in our country to lead further research in the area of cell biology and biomedicine which we hope will be of great impact and international significance.

Another Argentine scientist working with Hell is Mariano Bossi, a researcher at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of Materials, Environment and Energy dependent of the CONICET and the School of Natural Sciences, University of Buenos Aires. Bossi conducted postdoctoral studies with the German scientist and he published about 20 papers.

Francisco Barrantes, currently director of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and a senior fellow of the CONICET, implemented in our country a super-resolution technique called "ground state depletion microscopy followed by individual molecule return (GSDIM)" developed in the Stefan Hell group.

The evolution of technology

All traditional microscopes have a resolution limit which makes it not possible to see minor details at 200-300 nanometers (nm). This fundamental limit is imposed by the diffraction of light. When light is focused at a point, that point has a finite size.

The STED microscopy (known as the technology developed by the Nobel Prize winners) and other super resolution methodologies achieved subsequently allow optically visualize, through fluorescence, details up to 20-30 nm. Fluorescence microscopy is today an important tool to visualize cell biological processes. Many cellular structures have structural sub micrometer details invisible to the traditional microscopy. Optical nanoscopies offer the necessary spatial resolution providing unprecedented biological information in such systems.

The National Microscopy System (Sistema Nacional de Microscopía, SNM).

It is an initiative of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation together with the Interagency Council on Science and Technology (CICYT) within the frame of the Programme of Great Instruments and Databases. SNM has been created with the mission of generating, performing and coordinating policies that contribute to maximizing the use of large microscopes. In other words, large equipment used for the activity of research has been purchased with public funds.

Currently, 73 centers are members of the SNM, which provide access to 127 great teams. Over 75% of this registered equipment is distributed between the province of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires.

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  • Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.
  • Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.
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Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.

Fernando Stefani next to the STED microscope installed in CIBION-CONICET.

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