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Single molecule experimentation in biological physics: exploring the living component of soft condensed matter one molecule at a time

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Physics: Condensed Matter
DatePublished - 21 Dec 2011
Issue number50
Pages (from-to)503101
Original languageEnglish


The soft matter of biological systems consists of mesoscopic length scale building blocks, composed of a variety of different types of biological molecules. Most single biological molecules are so small that 1 billion would fit on the full-stop at the end of this sentence, but collectively they carry out the vital activities in living cells whose length scale is at least three orders of magnitude greater. Typically, the number of molecules involved in any given cellular process at any one time is relatively small, and so real physiological events may often be dominated by stochastics and fluctuation behaviour at levels comparable to thermal noise, and are generally heterogeneous in nature. This challenging combination of heterogeneity and stochasticity is best investigated experimentally at the level of single molecules, as opposed to more conventional bulk ensemble-average techniques. In recent years, the use of such molecular experimental approaches has become significantly more widespread in research laboratories around the world. In this review we discuss recent experimental approaches in biological physics which can be applied to investigate the living component of soft condensed matter to a precision of a single molecule.

Bibliographical note

© 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd Printed in the UK & the USA

    Research areas

  • Animals, Biophysics, Spectrometry, Fluorescence

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