Posted: November 20, 2007

New book presents methods to poke and prod individual molecules

(Nanowerk News) Single-molecule biology—the revolutionary field that deals with the study of individual macromolecules—is undergoing rapid growth. Tremendous technical advances have made it possible to probe molecules one by one, and to produce dynamic images as they twist, twirl, wobble, and unfold. These high-tech methods are the focus of a new book that was just released by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (
Single Molecule Techniques: A Laboratory Manual (P) is the first to take researchers who know nothing about single-molecule analyses to the point where they can successfully design and execute appropriate experiments. It is geared toward research scientists, post-docs, and graduate students in structural and molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics, as well as all who are interested in observing, manipulating, and elucidating the molecular mechanisms and discrete properties of macromolecules.
In order to examine biological phenomena on a molecular level, scientists formerly needed to test an entire population of molecules to capture an “average” of what’s happening. But using single-molecule techniques, scientists are now able to examine macromolecules in singulo—one by one—and obtain astonishingly clear views of discrete molecular and cellular events. These high-tech methods have primarily been the domain of biophysicists, but recently, the field of single-molecule biology has burgeoned into a multidisciplinary activity.
“Now it seems appropriate that the techniques of single molecules be extended to other users, not just to the experts,” write the editors, Drs. Paul Selvin and Taekjip Ha, in the preface to the book. Selvin and Ha are well-respected pioneers in the field of single-molecule biology and active scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “We hope to reach a wide audience, and for that, we aim to present a clear and accessible discourse,” they continue. “Hopefully, this will further enhance the field.”
Step-by-step protocols cover a range of methods, and are broadly divided into two categories: (1) fluorescence-based imaging methods, which include both in vivo and in vitro techniques, and (2) force-based methods, such as atomic force microscopy, optical and magnetic tweezers, and nanopores. Results from these experiments provide valuable information about the structural properties, mechanics, and sub-cellular locations of macromolecules, often with measurements at nano- and pico-unit resolution.
Single Molecule Techniques also includes substantial background information on each technique to guide researchers through each step of designing and executing experiments that yield informative results.
About the book:
Single-Molecule Techniques: A Laboratory Manual (© 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press) was edited by Paul R. Selvin and Taekjip Ha (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). The book is 507 pp. in length (illus., appendix, index) and is available in paperback (ISBN 978-087969775-4) and hardcover (ISBN ISBN 978-087969776-1). For additional information, please see
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit
Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
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