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Americans Eric Betzig and William Moerner and German scientist Stefan Hell won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for developing new methods that let microscopes see finer details than they could before - reported the AP.
Their breakthroughs, starting in the 1990s, shattered previous limits on the resolution of optical microscopes, giving scientists improved tools to study diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's at a molecular level.
The three scientists will split the 8 million-kronor ($1.1 million) award for "the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy," which the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said has "brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension."
Betzig, 54, works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia. Hell, 51, is director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany. Moerner, 61, is a professor at Stanford University in California.
For a long time optical microscopes were limited by among other things the wavelength of light. So scientists believed they could never yield a resolution better than 0.2 micrometers.
But helped by fluorescent molecules, the three scientists, working independently, were able to break that limit, taking optical microscopy into a new dimension that made it possible to study the interplay between molecules inside cells, including the aggregation of disease-related proteins, the academy said.