German Future Award for inventor of ground-breaking STED microscope
11 December 2006
Mannheim and Wetzlar, Germany. Professor Stefan Hell,
Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen,
was presented with the prestigious German Future Award by Federal President
Horst Köhler on 23 November, 2006. This annual technology and innovation
award, which was conferred for the tenth time this year, has a cash value of
€250,000 and is given in recognition of
projects that not only have revolutionary implications for science but are
also ready for application and marketing.
Hell is presented with the German Future Award by Federal President
Professor Hell received the Future Award for inventing STED microscopy.
(STED stands for “stimulated emission depletion”.) The patented STED
technique has been licensed to Leica Microsystems, which is developing STED
microscopy into a user-friendly instrument to be launched on the market in
2007. The new fluorescence system will be produced in Wetzlar and Mannheim.
The Stefan Hell/Leica Microsystems team was already successful at the
beginning of the year, when Leica Microsystems won the 2005 Innovation Award
of German Industry for the Leica TCS 4PI. This ultra-high resolution
microscope system was another invention of Hell’s to be marketed by Leica.
Professor Hell was the first to find a way of overcoming the 130-year-old
Abbé limit in the fluorescence microscope, the
most important microscope in biomedical research. Ever since the 17th
century, the light microscope has been one of the main symbols of scientific
progress — particularly in biology and medicine. Harnessing STED microscopy,
molecules can now be imaged with far greater definition than before.
is new about this technique is the fact that the resolution of microscope
images is no longer limited by the wavelength of the light, as postulated by
Abbé. The attainable resolution is purely a
question of technical design. Hell and his team have already achieved
resolutions of 20 nanometers, ie 10 times over the Abbé
limit. As protein complexes are in the 10-200 nanometer range, this
microscope has the potential to probe life on a molecular scale soon and
obtain more accurate information on diseases.
The ability to view life in
nanometer dimensions opens the door to an understanding of intracellular
life processes which was never thought possible before and which may lead to
revolutionary discoveries on the subject of how diseases originate. “We
therefore expect all well-known universities and research institutes that do
basic biomedical research to buy one of these systems in the next few
years,” said Dr. Martin Haase, Manager of Leica Microsystems CMS GmbH.