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Researchers have developed a new enhanced DNA imaging technique that can probe the structure of individual DNA strands at the nanoscale. Since DNA is at the root of many disease processes, the technique could help scientists gain important insights into what goes wrong when DNA becomes damaged or when other cellular processes affect gene expression.

The new imaging method builds on a technique called single-molecule microscopy by adding information about the orientation and movement of fluorescent dyes attached to the DNA strand.

W. E. Moerner, Stanford University, USA, is the founder of single-molecule spectroscopy, a breakthrough method from 1989 that allowed scientists to visualize single molecules with optical microscopy for the first time. Of the 2014 Nobel Laureates for optical microscopy beyond the diffraction limit (Moerner, Hell & Betzig), Moerner and Betzig used single molecules to image a dense array of molecules at different times.

In The Optical Society's journal for high impact research, Optica, the research team led by Moerner describes their new technique and demonstrates it by obtaining super-resolution images and orientation measurements for thousands of single fluorescent dye molecules attached to DNA strands.

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