Super-resolution describes a range of techniques in fluorescence microscopy, which allow images to be taken in the 10–100nm resolution range. At the same time, these techniques retain the minimally invasive nature inherent to optical microscopy. Therefore, it is now possible to observe and to characterize life in its finest structures, down to resolving molecular details using super-resolution microscopy. Cellular mechanisms become quantifiable, for example the reorganizing of actin, shuttling of vesicles along microtubulin filaments, the assembly of virus particles, or the firing at individual synapses in a live neuron, and innumerable more.
Various super-resolution techniques are now available to the scientific community and, with their ability to uncover mechanistic details in biological processes, look set to play a major role in life-science research. This Essential Knowledge Briefing provides a general overview of the field of super-resolution microscopy. It will explain in a simplified way how the various techniques work and give examples of how scientists have successfully employed these techniques in their research.