Feb. 13, 2013
NewsScientific News

Caltech: Visualizing Biological Networks in 4D

  • A DNA structure as seen through the 4D electron microscope invented at Caltech. Credit: Zewail & Lorenz/CaltechA DNA structure as seen through the 4D electron microscope invented at Caltech. Credit: Zewail & Lorenz/Caltech

Every great structure, from the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, depends on specific mechanical properties to remain strong and reliable. Rigidity-a material's stiffness-is of particular importance for maintaining the robust functionality of everything from colossal edifices to the tiniest of nanoscale structures. In biological nanostructures, like DNA networks, it has been difficult to measure this stiffness, which is essential to their properties and functions. But scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have recently developed techniques for visualizing the behavior of biological nanostructures in both space and time, allowing them to directly measure stiffness and map its variation throughout the network.

Zewail and Lorenz were able to see, for the first time, the motion of DNA nanostructures in both space and time using the four-dimensional (4D) electron microscope developed at Caltech's Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology. The center is directed by Zewail, who created it in 2005 to advance understanding of the fundamental physics of chemical and biological behavior.

Read more within the original publication:
Ulrich J. Lorenz and Ahmed H. Zewail: Biomechanics of DNA structures visualized by 4D electron microscopy. Published online before print February 4, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1300630110, PNAS February 4, 2013 201300630

or at http://www.caltech.edu/

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