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Trio Wins Nobel Chemistry Prize For Work In Super-Resolved Fluorescence Microscopy

Americans William E. Moerner and Eric Betzig and German Stefan W. Hell are this year's recipients for their work, which has improved the resolution of light microscopes.

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Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner are this year's winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, it has been announced.

BREAKING NEWS: #nobelprize2014 in Chemistry to Eric Betzig @HHMINEWS, Stefan W. Hell, William E. Moerner @Stanford

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BREAKING NEWS: #nobelprize2014 in Chemistry to Eric Betzig @HHMINEWS, Stefan W. Hell, William E. Moerner @Stanford

10:51 AM - 08 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

The trio were awarded the honor for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, which has improved the resolution and extended the limits of light microscopes, the BBC reported.

Prior to the laureates' work, optical microscopes had been held back by the assumption that we would never be able to obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. By using fluorescent molecules, the three were able to circumvent this limitation, allowing scientists to see things at such a high resolution that the activity of individual molecules inside cells could be observed.

A statement from the Nobel committee said: "Their groundbreaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension."

Their developments have allowed scientists to study how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain, meaning proteins involved in diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's can be tracked as they aggregate. Their work also means individual proteins in fertilized eggs can be followed as they divide into embryos.

Betzig works for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Moerner works for Stanford, and Hell works for the German Cancer Research Center and the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.

Tt News Agency / Reuters

Committee chair Sven Lidin (above, bottom left) said, "The work of the laureates has made it possible to study molecular processes in real time."

Speaking following the announcement of his win, Hell said, "I was wondering if there was still something profound that could be made with light microscopy, so I saw that the diffraction barrier was the only important problem that had been left over.

"Eventually I realized there must be a way by playing with the molecules, trying to turn the molecules on and off allows you to see adjacent things you couldn't see before."

The three laureates will receive a share of 8 million Swedish krona, which is around $1.1 million.

Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Francis Whittaker at francis.whittaker@buzzfeed.com.

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