Millions of archived formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens contain valuable molecular insight into healthy and diseased states persevered in their native ultrastructure. To diagnose and treat diseases in tissue on the nanoscopic scale, pathology traditionally employs electron microscopy (EM), but this platform has significant limitations including cost and painstaking sample preparation. The invention of single molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) optically overcame the diffraction limit of light to resolve fluorescently labeled molecules on the nanoscale, leading to many exciting biological discoveries. However, applications of SMLM in preserved tissues has been limited. Through adaptation of the immunofluorescence workflow on FFPE sections milled at histological thickness, cellular architecture can now be visualized on the nanoscale using SMLM including individual mitochondria, undulations in the nuclear lamina, and the HER2 receptor on membrane protrusions in human breast cancer specimens. Using astigmatism imaging, these structures can also be resolved in three dimensions to a depth of ∼800 nm. These results demonstrate the utility of SMLM in efficiently uncovering ultrastructural information of archived clinical samples, which may offer molecular insights into the physiopathology of tissues to assist in disease diagnosis and treatment using conventional sample preparation methods.
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