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Using AWS to View Molecular Machinery in Remarkable Detail

In this week’s Nature Methods Journal, Salk researchers share a how-to secret for biologists: code for Amazon Cloud that significantly reduces the time necessary to process data-intensive microscopic images.

In the early 2000s, several techniques were developed to break through the Abbe Limit, launching the new field of super-resolution microscopy. Among them was a method developed by Lippincott-Schwartz and her colleagues called Photoactivated Localization Microscopy, or PALM. PALM, and its sister techniques, work because mathematics can see what the eye cannot: within the blurry spot, there are concentrations of photons that form bright peaks, which represent single molecules. The downside to these approaches is that it can take several hours to several days to crunch all the numbers required just to produce one usable image.

Calculating an area of 50 pixels can take nearly a full day on a state-of-the-art desktop computer,” says Lippincott-Schwartz. “But what you’ll have achieved is the difference between a guess and a definitive answer.”

To make PALM more practical for use in biomedical research, the team wrote a computer script that allows any biologist to upload and process PALM images using Amazon Cloud. Read the Full Story.

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