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First Direct Image of DNA Double Helix 44

Posted by timothy
from the can-see-my-house-from-here dept.
New submitter bingbat writes "Scientists at the University at Genoa, Italy have successfully photographed the double-helix structure of a single strand of DNA, using a tunneling electron microscope. This marks the first visual confirmation of its structure." The full paper is behind a paywall, but the linked abstract includes the picture that's worth a thousand words.
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First Direct Image of DNA Double Helix

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:03AM (#42153361) Homepage

    That's a tad confusing, but so is the 'article':

    Direct imaging becomes important when the knowledge at few/single molecule level is requested and where the diffraction does not allow to get structural and functional information. Here we report on the direct imaging of double stranded (ds) -DNA in the A conformation, obtained by combining a novel sample preparation method based on super hydrophobic DNA molecules self-aggregation process with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The experimental breakthrough is the production of robust and highly ordered paired DNA nanofibers that allowed its direct TEM imaging and the double helix structure revealing.

    It appears that this was translated poorly from the original Italian. A strand of DNA could be a single polymer of DNA or double stranded - where complementary sequences are bound together in the traditional 'double helix' - 'strand' being a poor choice of words in this context. It's not clear where the tunneling electron microscope idea came from.

    It's also not clear that the picture represents and image of either single or double stranded DNA. It appears to be a linear polymer of a number of double stranded DNA molecules. You can see a helical structure, but it appears that that you are looking at a group of DNA molecules bound together. Unfortunately, the paucity of information in the abstract and the poor translation make it unclear what, if anything, we learn with this technique.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:00AM (#42153523) Homepage Journal
    Some fun art from c1910 by a Swedish artist named Hilma Af Klint
    http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/hilma-af-klint/what-a-human-being-is-1910 [wikipaintings.org]
  • by cnettel (836611) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:18AM (#42153569)

    The main problem of the experiments of the Watson-Crick era was that the diffraction pattern was created by the average along the helix, so you could not really discern individual nucleotides. Considering diffraction by itself to somehow be inferior to transmission techniques is not very convincing, in my opinion. It's not even like the scientists can visually see this with their own eyes - and even if they could, the interpretation would be totally dependent on the design of the equipment, just like reconstruction of diffraction data is dependent on a number of assumptions.

    What's relevant and interesting is the fact that we get close to observing individual molecules of DNA in detail, but that could be done with techniques for single-molecule diffraction as well.

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