Astronomers have space-based telescopes like the Hubble Space
Telescope to understand the history and structure of
the universe. Physicists have giant particle accelerators
to isolate the fundamental elements of energy and matter.
Now biologists have an advanced tool to examine the structure of genes.
Imagine looking at a satellite image of your home state
in such high resolution that you can spot your local college
football field. Then imagine being able to see the football
itself, in 3-D. The 4 Pi microscope represents a comparable
increase in resolution, only on a tiny scale.
The 4-Pi Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope is one of the
world's most advanced microscopes, capable of revealing
the structure of genetic material in a cell in 3-D.
The first such instrument is now in use in the United States,
thanks to an NSF Biological Sciences Directorate grant awarded to
the Institute for Molecular Biophysics in Maine. The institute's
members are scientists at the University of Maine at Orono,
the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough
and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.
The institute's goal is to explore the structure and function of genes and chromosomes within cells in order to understand exactly how genes control cellular development.
The new microscope will enable researchers to examine specific
structures within a cell as small as a single gene on a chromosome at
a resolution four to seven times greater than conventional
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