Researchers have been able to view a strand of DNA through an electron microscope by stringing it between microscopic silicon pillars.
Previously, the DNA helix could only be viewed by x-ray crystallography — a technique that throws x-rays at a crystallised strand of DNA, and constructs an image from the reflected rays. It's fiddly and can be imprecise, because it involves a lot of guesswork.
That's why this new technique is so exciting. Using an electron microscope, the head of the Nanostructures Department at the University of Genoa, Enzo di Fabrizio, has been able to look directly at the strand itself.
The DNA strand stretched between two pillars (left) and close-up (right).
(Credit: Enzo di Fabrizio)
In this way, researchers will be able to examine DNA in greater detail, as well as how it interacts with proteins and RNA.
The paper, "Direct Imaging of DNA Fibers: The Visage of Double Helix", can be purchased here.