STED microscopy and its applications: new insights into cellular processes on the nanoscale

For about a decade, superresolution fluorescence microscopy has been advancing steadily, maturing from the proof-of-principle stage to routine application. Of the various techniques, STED (stimulated emission depletion) microscopy was the first to break the diffraction barrier. Today, it is a prominent and versatile form of superresolution light microscopy. STED microscopy has shed a sharper light on numerous topics in cell biology, but also in material sciences. Both disciplines extend into the nanometer range, making detailed studies of structural and functional relationships difficult or even impossible to achieve using diffraction-limited microscopy. With recent advancements like spectral multiplexing or live-cell imaging, STED microscopy makes nanoscale materials and components of the cell accessible for fluorescence-based investigations. With multicolor superresolution imaging, even the interactions between biological and engineered nanostructures can be studied in detail. This review gives an introduction into the working principle of STED microscopy, provides a detailed overview of recent advancements and new techniques implemented for use with STED microscopy and shows how these have been applied in the life sciences and nanotechnologies.