He has specialized in single-molecule microscopy enabling quantitative studies of the composition and dynamics of cellular structures and enzymatic reactions in living cells. Dirk researches tools to enable quantitative studies of the composition and dynamics of cellular structures and enzymatic reactions in living cells. This highly interdisciplinary research will improve our general understanding of intracellular functions and cellular responses to external stimuli in the context of various diseases by bridging biochemistry and cell biology. The design of fluorescent probes for live-cell single-molecule studies has potential for biomedical research and diagnostic applications. Dirk is currently active in three areas in single-molecule research: single photon based molecular counting, switchable fluorescent probes for advanced fluorescence microscopy, e. View all publications in research portal.
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Professor Herten leads the Single Molecule Spectroscopy group at Heidelberg University aiming at quantitative analytical approaches in biology and chemistry based on single-molecule data acquired with advanced fluorescence microscopy. The groups research interests range from the development of fluorescent probes for live-cell microscopy to the investigation of chemical reactions on a single-molecule level. In the area of single-molecule chemistry, the group have now turned to more complex catalytic reactions to try to identify individual reaction steps and alternative reaction pathways. Here, the limited observation time due to photo-bleaching and low photon yield poses a major obstacle in the investigation of chemical transitions. The precise identification of different molecular states occurring randomly during a chemical transformation requires excellent signal to noise ratio at high time-resolution in the millisecond range. The high frame rates and the low readout noise brings us closer to our goal of observing individual reaction steps in single-molecule experiments.
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Measuring the kinetics of protein-protein interactions between molecules in the plasma membrane of live cells provides valuable information for understanding dynamic processes, like cellular signaling, on a molecular scale. Two-color single-molecule tracking is a fluorescence microscopy-based method to detect and quantify specific protein-protein interactions on a single-event level, providing sensitivity to heterogeneities and rare events. Fundamentally, it allows following the movement of single molecules of two different protein species in live cells with a localization precision beyond the diffraction limit of light in real time.