A 175-year journey of discovery fashioned fluorescence microscopy into a fundamental technique for life science research. Fluorescent and phosphorescent labels in the form of protein tags and dyes enable researchers to visualize almost any cellular process. Many fluorescent probes came to fruition after the discovery and cloning of green fluorescent protein. Several contain unique properties that allow them to be turned “on” or “off,” change their spectral properties at specific wavelengths of light, and even change color over time.
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